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Provo School District bucks trend, plans no tax increase for residents
Enrollment drop decreases budget, keeps taxes at bay

PROVO -- Provo School District's roller-coaster ride on the enrollment track just hit a dip. But the drop in students doesn't mean taxpayers will have to pay extra fare for the quick downturn.

Provo, which is expected to fall about 144 students this year, is the sole Utah County school district that isn't planning on raising taxes to keep up with growth.While the headcount decrease isn't much of a free fall compared to the likes of Lagoon's Skycoaster, the number of students that attend schools in Provo does play a role in how much the district receives each year from the state to run its 19 schools.

To take a look at how much the district receives to educate each child in the city, a proposed budget for the coming school year will be unveiled at a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at district headquarters, 280 W. 940 North.

A strong tax base helps Provo educate the children living within the district's boundaries, however. Provo spends about $4,543 per student each year, which is $724 above the state average and some $1,110 more than the neighboring Alpine School District.

For the coming year, district officials estimate they will need $61.6 million to operate schools and academic programs, pay teachers, buy supplies and cover debts. That figure is down from last year's $62.8 million budget.

Under the proposed budget, teachers would be given a 2.5 percent increase in salary and benefits. Negotiations on a new insurance plan -- which was needed when the insurance company announced a 11 percent premium increase -- have not yet ended, said Lynn Smith, business manager.

But thanks to stagnant growth and anti-tax voters, Provo residents likely won't pay more for its schools this year. Neighboring Alpine and Nebo districts both plan to boost taxes to pay for rising enrollments.

Provo voters in May denounced a proposal to fund an academic proficiency program called "Standards and Benchmarks." Under the school standards plan, students would be offered extra tutoring and one-on-one instruction to help them pass year-end proficiency tests.

If students failed tests, they would face being held back a grade until the lessons were learned.

Provo planned to start the education-standards effort this fall with funding from a $2-million voted leeway. With the decisive vote -- and pressure by a parent's group to utilize volunteers instead of hiring tutors -- the education board also decided not to impose a $400,000 board-imposed levy.

Combined, the levies would have increased taxes $50 annually on a $100,000 house.

"We decided not to (raise taxes) based on the vote," said Mossi White, board president. "We decided that the people have spoken."

A survey of Provo parents was taken last month to gauge interest in starting the standards program. Results of the poll also will be presented at Tuesday's meeting.

Provo was given $150,000 by the state to get the program started.

"We'll do what we can with that," Smith said. "We just won't be able to do what we wanted if we would have had a successful leeway election."