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Legal error prompts Our Schools Now to set more public meetings on proposed tax hike for Utah education

Published July 18, 2017 10:07 pm

Ballot initiative • Public notice for previous hearings was insufficient, according to state law.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Our Schools Now is taking its ballot initiative on the road — again — after failing to comply with public notice laws during its first round of legally required town halls.

Backers of the initiative, which seeks voter support to boost Utah's income and sales tax rates by 0.5 percentage points, will host seven regional meetings simultaneously throughout Utah on Thursday to field questions and comments from the public.

"The legal notice for the first round of hearings was deficient, and, to be in 100 percent compliance with the statute, a second round will be held," said campaign manager Austin Cox. "We welcome the opportunity to get more insight from voters about how we can improve education."



Meetings will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at Discovery Elementary School in Brigham City, Santa Clara Elementary in Santa Clara, Trailside Elementary in Park City, Fillmore Elementary in Fillmore, Centennial Elementary in Roosevelt, Lomond View Elementary in Pleasant View and the Grand County School District Office in Moab.

Similar meetings were held simultaneously last week in cities within the same seven state regions defined in state law.

At two of last week's meetings, in Salt Lake City and Orem, reception was mixed. Educators largely spoke in favor of the initiative, while groups like the Utah Taxpayers Association and Americans For Prosperity-Utah questioned the lack of details for how school administrators would spend the new funding.

Some audience members were critical of public education, describing it as a socialist failure; some criticized the wealth and status of Our Schools Now's organizers, who include Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson and Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller.

Our Schools Now estimates that the tax increase would generate $700 million, when fully implemented, for public education. A review by the Governor's Office of Management and Budget puts the price tag for taxpayers at $826 million.

Funding would be distributed on a per-student basis, and schools would be required to develop and submit performance improvement plans for district approval.

Cox declined to specify how the original round of regional hearings fell short of state statute. But the public notices submitted for each series of meetings show an additional paragraph, added this week, outlining Our Schools Now's proposal to raise income and sales taxes by 0.5 percentage points, which equates to relative increases of 10 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively.

The additional language appears to reflect HB255, approved by lawmakers in March, which requires tax increase initiatives to include the "percentage difference" and "percentage increase" in campaign documents and notices.

After the public meetings are completed, Our Schools Now plans to begin gathering signatures in August to qualify for the November 2018 ballot. The campaign must secure more than 113,000 signatures from voters in at least 26 of Utah's 29 Senate districts to reach the ballot.

bwood@sltrib.com

Twitter: @bjaminwood —

Our Schools Now town halls

Thursday, 6 p.m.

Discovery Elementary School, Brigham City.

Santa Clara Elementary, Santa Clara.

Trailside Elementary, Park City.

Fillmore Elementary, Fillmore.

Grand County School District Office, Moab.

Centennial Elementary, Roosevelt.

Lomond View Elementary, Pleasant View.

 

 

 

 

 

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