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GRANITE OKS BUDGET WITHOUT AN UPROAR

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What a difference a year makes.

The Granite Board of Education, which last year ran a gauntlet of angry taxpayers to pass its annual budget, performed the same task this week with nary a peep from the public.The difference? Last year, Salt Lake County had re-evaluated homes in a large portion of the east side of the school district, and unhappy taxpayers vented their frustrations on the school board as they were notified of significant tax increases. No changes in assessments this year portended a quieter budget hearing Tuesday.

The board approved a $291.27 million budget for the 1994-95 school year, an increase of 5.80 percent over the previous year's budget. District taxpayers, however, will see a very slight decrease in their tax bills for education, as the tax rate dropped from .009370 to .009150.

On a $75,000 home, the drop would be about $4 - from $470.67 last year to $466.65 for the upcoming budget year.

"I wish they (the taxpayers) were here to see that the decrease this year is about the same as the increase was last year," board member Lynn Davidson said.

"It's big business to educate more than 75,000 kids, maintain 90 buildings and provide salaries for 4,000-plus employees," said Mitch Robison, associate director of budget development.

Salaries account for almost 80 percent of the total district expenditures; supplies 7.6 percent; debt service, 4.2 percent; property, 5.7 percent; and purchased services, 3.1 percent.

Salary increases, including routine step and lane changes, and inflation in health insurance, supplies, utility costs and textbooks account for the bulk of the increase in the budget. Granite has not yet settled negotiations with employee groups for the coming year.

Robison warned the board that it should be cognizant of declining school-age population in the district and plan ahead to keep fixed costs within projected incomes.

"We'll really have to be careful, or we'll be in a world of hurt," Superintendent Loren G. Burton said. Projections show coming declines particularly in the elementary grades. Junior high school numbers are leveling, but high school enrollments continue to increase each year for the immediate future.

Robison also noted that interest income has declined over the past few years as rates have fallen from a high of about 10 percent down to the 4 percent range. Plans that were made based on the higher interest rates have had to be adjusted, he said.

Board President Robert Arnold expressed concerns with the state's handling of property taxes. As reassessments are made, "we're going to have a rebellion," he said.

Davidson agreed that the present tax structure that makes school districts reliant on property taxes for construction is unfair, given the varying needs of the state's 40 districts. "It's a hard burden and getting more difficult all the time," he said.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

School budget: Granite District

District valuation $8.07 billion

Total revenues $283.5 million

Total expenditures $291.3 million

Increase 5.80%

Total tax rate 0.009150

Tax decrease $4.02

(for $75,000 home)