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Jordan eyes tax increase

District says funds needed for programs and raises

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Homeowners in the state's largest school district probably will pay a bigger property tax bill this fall.

The Jordan Board of Education has informally decided to hike property taxes in order to pull down $1.6 million in state reading dollars.

"We don't have any choice," board member Jane Callister said of the program, which could put a needed reading specialist in every elementary school.

That and several other proposed tax hikes, mixed with some proposed tax relief, could add an extra $28 to taxes on a $100,000 house.

But even with the increases, the district would be up to $3 million short of meeting all of schools' wishes. Without it, programs would be cut, said Burke Jolley, deputy superintendent of business services.

"It's either increase class size, or don't give health insurance increased costs, or . . . any (pay) increases," Jolley said. "We didn't receive enough funding from the Legislature to fund all those increased compensation costs. So we're going to have to raise taxes or cut . . . programs. And we don't know of any programs we could cut."

Jordan will get some new money. It will see $3 million from the Legislature's 1.49 percent increase to the weighted pupil unit, the state's basic per-student funding formula. And teachers will divvy $2.3 million as part of a one-time salary bonus — about $300 for full-time workers and $150 for half-timers — forwarded by the Legislature.

But expenses are adding up, too.

Health insurance costs rose $4.2 million, or more than 11 percent, Jolley said. Employees would pick up half the tab in premiums under a past agreement.

Schools, maintenance and other offices also have submitted a $12.3 million wish list, ranging from an extra bus mechanic to $350,000 to pick up lost federal Title I funds at Midvale Middle School.

Negotiations on teacher contracts are under way. But even a 1 percent salary hike would cost $2.4 million; teachers' steps up the salary schedule would cost $4.5 million.

The district has taxing options, Jolley told the board in a study session Tuesday.

Property values are expected to rise $500 million, which could bring the district $700,000 at the current tax rate.

The district could raise $3.6 million through the bond and voted leeways voters approved last year for building and operating new schools.

The board could hike taxes by $2.2 million to draw down state reading program dollars.

It could raise a "10 percent of basic" tax by about $5.2 million. The money would fund supplies, books or buildings and free up other money for salaries.

It also could decrease the levy to pay off the bond, which at the current rate is generating more money than needed to pay off the debt. That would offer taxpayers about $10 reduction in taxes on a $100,000 house.

All said, residents could be hit with another $28 in taxes on a $100,000 house.

Any tax increase is subject to a public hearing.

The board has until the end of June to approve its budget.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com