The buildings are old in the Granite School District. Their roofs leak and their classrooms aren't wired for the computers necessary in today's high-tech world.

At the same time, the school district's boundaries are full of irritable homeowners. Each year in recent history, increasing valuations have punched property taxes up by 15 or 30 or 40 percent. Homeowners say wage increases don't come close to keeping up with tax hikes.These two realities clashed Tuesday at a hearing to gather public comment about the district's plan to shift $12 million it has used each year to pay off debt into a fund for the reroofing, rewiring and seismic upgrades district officials say buildings desperately need.

Debt-free as of late June, the board had a choice to return all or part of the money to voters, or use it to whittle away at a backlog of repairs that will cost about $55 million to fix.

After two hours of complaints and explanation, the district's challenge to keep schools safe prevailed over homeowner concerns about high taxes as the Board of Education voted to continue a property tax indefinitely.

Property owners may get $1 to $3 returned, instead of the $55 that would've been returned on a $100,000 home had the district voted not to continue the tax.

Board President Patty Sandstrom explained the plan as a tax-neutral shift, not a tax increase, but said she understood the concerns. "We were not anticipating what would happen when the appraisals and the reevaluation of homes came in."

What happened is that although the state Legislature recently mandated some property tax relief, home values climbed so much in Salt Lake County that many people's taxes still increased.

Property valuation notices in hand, residents from the state's largest school district filled Granite's board room Tuesday to ask questions about their notices, and lodge complaints.

County Assessor Lee Gardner and Chief Deputy Assessor Pete Lund both were on hand to field questions from homeowners steamed about their increased valuations. Several people had horror stories about 90 or 100 percent increases.

All the irritation congealed into general displeasure at school and county taxes. One man's 40 percent property tax increase means his business must make $80,000 more in sales. "I can't afford that. My customers can't afford it," he said.

Another young man said he had graduated from college, got a job, "and I'm not making it.

"I can't believe it keeps going up."

While a few agreed with the district approach, most had no patience for district woes.

"I'm concerned about an attitude in which elective officials start thinking like the government - like my purse is yours," said Denise Bryce of Taylorsville.

"To propose keeping even 1 cent would be a breach of the covenant with the people," Vibert Kesler told the board. "If you need more money, you'll have to go about it a different way."

Howard Headlee of the Utah Taypayer's Association said his organization found the district's request reasonable. But he advised the board to be sensitive to the area more heavily impacted than any other area of the state by reappraisals and higher taxes.

"People in this audience have been hit hard several years in a row," Headlee said. "I'd encourage you to consider rescaling the (property tax) rate."

After the debate, that's what the board did. The board voted to change the proposed tax rate slightly to omit estimates for new growth. The move means about $350,000 of the $12.2 million won't be collected.

Boardmember Lynn Davidson agrees philosophically with many homeowners but said fiscal realities cause him to support the transfer. The $47 million paid to interest over the years could've been used to build seven or eight elementary schools.

"Do we structure a pay-as-you-go program, or do we take out another loan and pay millions of dollars in interest?" he said.

Results of a poll, conducted by Dan Jones and Associates, showed 76 percent of 400 residents surveyed approved shifting the money to capital projects.