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Davis District plans a tax hike
Schools to use cash to open 3 elementaries, make up for state cuts

FARMINGTON -- Davis County residents can expect a slight raise in taxes as the Davis School District budgets to open three new elementary schools and tries to make up for cuts in state money aimed at reducing class sizes.

The board of the state's third-largest district will vote on the $315.4 million budget following a public hearing Tuesday.The proposed property tax increase would mean about a $16-a-year increase in taxes for the owner of a $150,000 home. That figure may fluctuate as Davis County officials firm up the district's tax rate.

The district hopes to raise $2.6 million from the tax increase. About two-thirds of that amount will come from property taxes, which would leverage another third from state matching funds, according to Bruce Williams, district business administrator.

Davis voters in 1997 raised the district's property taxing limit. This year's planned tax increase would bring taxes up to the two-thirds mark of the approved limit, known as a leeway, according to Williams.

Because voters have previously approved the tax leeway, Greg Fredde, vice president of the Utah Taxpayer Association, said his group has not been active in opposing the increase.

"The voters approved the leeway, and the district said it would be implemented over a three-year period," Fredde said. "This is an appropriate way to do it."

Because of the leeway and because Davis County lacks a significant commercial tax base, the Davis district has the sixth highest total tax rate among Utah school districts, Williams said.

The proposed 1999-2000 budget is actually less than the previous year's, which reflected a period when construction costs bolstered expenses.

As with most school budgets, the lion's share of the district's maintenance and operation budget pie covers employee salaries and wages. In Davis' case, that will amount to about 87 percent of the budget next school year. About 10 percent of the budget will go toward supplies and textbooks.

Some specific increases in the budget include:

Give a cost-of-living wage increase for district teachers of 2.05 percent. The district has already settled on a contract with its teachers. Money would also be spent to cover a 7 percent increase in insurance premiums.

Pay more for substitute teachers by increasing their pay by 5 percent at a cost of $80,000.

Spend about $1.1 million in costs associated with opening three new schools in West Point, Syracuse and Kaysville.

Retain seven elementary teachers at a cost of $260,000. The teachers were originally funded through state elementary class size reduction monies. However, a change in a formula meant either the district had to fund them or lose them.

Expand gifted and talented programs to all elementary schools. Currently, 10 schools don't have such programs.

Increase hours for head school secretaries from 7.5 hours a day to 8 at a cost of $97,300.

Fund two additional counselors for elementary schools at a cost of $75,000.