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Granite residents facing $19 million tax increase
Funds would go for renovations, book purchases

Residents in the Granite School District are faced with a $19 million tax increase to renovate aging schools, boost technology and buy more books as part of a $375.1 million budget proposal.

The proposal would amount to an additional $66 in annual property tax for a home valued at $100,000 or a $99 increase for a $150,000 home. The Granite Board of Education will vote on the budget at a Tuesday public hearing."There are number of needs the public can't see looking at the building," including code and accessibility compliance and wiring for technology, said David Garrett, district business administrator.

Of the $19 million proposed tax increase, $14 million would fund renovations or replacement of 12 district buildings that are more than 50 years old; $3 million would buy new computers to address Y2K problems, and $2 million would buy reading materials under the district initiative to boost reading programs and test scores.

"The board has a lot of commitment to improving test scores and they are trying to focus on basic areas," Garrett said.

The district also expects to receive $750,000 from the state's elementary reading initiative, plus $1.2 million in federal class size reduction funds that will be used to provide 30 reading specialists and training for elementary schoolteachers.

As for buildings, a committee of residents and district officials has recommended renovating the district's oldest schools: Granite and Central high schools; Olympus, Brockbank and Valley junior highs; and Whittier, Oakwood, Lincoln, William Penn, Woodrow Wilson, Holladay and Libbie Edward elementaries.

The district has been debt-free since June 1996. Taxes that used to repay debt were transferred to the fund for building projects.

But that fund is not yet big enough to fix up those schools. While details of the renovation plan have not been pinned down, the plan could include replacing some schools.

Also affecting the budget is enrollment. While school populations boom to the west -- crews are building a new elementary in West Valley -- enrollment is expected to dip 1.3 percent next year. That means 109 fewer students in elementaries, 522 fewer in junior highs and 295 fewer in high schools. This school year's enrollment was around 72,200.

Fewer students mean fewer state per-pupil funds despite ongoing maintenance and operation costs. No teachers will lose their jobs from enrollment declines; instead, the district plans not to fill all retirement vacancies, Garrett said. But some teachers will be moved to balance the growth, as in previous years.