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3 districts have tax measures

Two Utah school districts want to raise taxes to build schools or drop class size and pay teachers more, and a third wants to maintain taxes to keep up with growth.

Voters in Morgan, Wasatch and Washington school districts Tuesday will decide whether those measures are worth supporting.

Morgan School District wants a $376,000 tax hike to restore three elementary teaching positions, cut in the recent economic downturn, business administrator Richard Reese said. It also wants to raise teachers' base pay to keep pace with state averages "so we can attract and retain quality teachers" in the coming retirement wave, Reese said.

The proposal would cost the owner of a $184,000 house $80.96 a year — or $6.75 a month — in additional property tax, Reese said.

"We have tightened our belt to the point where we feel that any further cuts in staff will . . . increase class sizes and eliminate programs," he said.

The Utah Taxpayers Association believes the tax increase is unnecessary, vice president Mike Jerman said.

Washington School District proposes a $99 million bond to expand Pine View Middle School, build two intermediate schools, a high school, and five elementaries to accommodate "unbelievable growth," district business administrator Brent Bills said.

A $73 million bond voters passed two years ago was used up more quickly than anticipated, Bills said.

The bond would not cost residents extra; tax levels would remain where they are to pay off the new debt, Bills said. Actually, revenue from new growth might even decrease tax payments.

"We're encouraging voters in Washington County . . . to support the school district bond," Jerman said. "No question they have to build new schools. They've put together a reasonable proposal."

Wasatch School District proposes borrowing $9.7 million to build a new elementary and renovate J.R. Smith Elementary, according to its Web site. It also proposes a a $500,000 increase in the voted leeway to staff and operate the new school.

The bond would add $19.97 in taxes on a $100,000 house — an amount that likely would decline with growth, according to the Web site. The leeway would add $14.79 in taxes on a house of the same value.

District business administrator Keith Johansen did not return a phone message for comment.

But the Web site says that if the measures don't pass, the school board will have to put elementary schools on year-round schedules next year and levy a tax hike to fund air conditioning at Smith and Midway Elementaries. That tax would cost an extra $16.50 in property tax on a $100,000 house.

Jerman's group is neutral on the bond, but opposes the voted leeway, saying tax rates are high enough.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com