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Murray • With a proposed $605,000 tax increase, members of the Murray Board of Education hope to hire additional school counselors, math coaches and elementary administrators.
Board members gave preliminary approval to next year's budget on Tuesday, including new revenue based on requests from the district's personnel.
But included in the additional tax revenue next year which translates to $28 for the average Murray homeowner is roughly $115,000 that will effectively evaporate from district coffers.
That money will be sent back to the state and distributed to the state's charter schools, which house tens of thousands of Utah students who have abandoned or steered away from traditional district schools.
"We really tried hard to do the right thing by everybody," Murray School District board member Marjorie Tuckett said. "We have to do what is right for the kids and that's the bottom line."
Murray isn't the only Utah school district looking at a tax increase to cover charter school costs. During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that simplifies charter school funding, but also requires many districts to contribute greater sums to their charter counterparts.
The funding formula, known as charter school replacement, previously gave school districts the option of paying the charters the lesser of two funding levels one-quarter of the district's per-pupil funding rate or one-quarter of the state average per-pupil funding rate.
Lawmakers argued the formula created winners and losers among the state's districts, and in March they approved HB119, which requires all school districts to pay 25 percent of their local pupil funding rate to charter schools.
In Salt Lake City, school board members are considering a $1.5 million tax increase, which would cost homeowners an additional $4.67 for every $100,000 of assessed value, according to district spokesman Jason Olsen.
Of that total, $900,000 will be used to offset charter school funds, Olsen said; the remaining $600,000 will fund a peer mentoring program and training for teachers.
"Without a tax increase, the district would have to cut other programs to pay for this charter school funding increase," Olsen said.
Granite School District administrators are considering an $860,000 tax increase that would cost the average homeowner $5 per year, according to district spokesman Ben Horsley.
Horsley said charter schools are public and deserve to be funded equitably. But he added that the local replacement formula created by the state puts district officials in the awkward position of raising taxes for entities they do not oversee.
"We're being the bad guys with taxing and we don't have any authority over the funds," Horsley said.
Horsley said there's also a fallacy among some charter school proponents that the loss of district students to charters translates to a direct cost savings for traditional schools.
He said enrollment continues to increase, and the loss of individual students can't be easily recouped in educator salaries and facility expenses.
"Just because two charter school students leave a traditional public school doesn't mean that roof doesn't need to be replaced," he said. "We still have to provide adequate facilities for our students."
Proposed tax increases in Murray, Granite and Salt Lake City school districts will not be finalized until after truth in taxation hearings are held in August.
Representatives from many of the state's largest school districts including Alpine, Davis, Jordan and Canyons said their board members were not considering a tax increase this year.
But homeowners across the state will soon be hit with a separate school-related tax increase.
Lawmakers recently approved SB97, which raises $75 million for public education through a statewide property tax.
In Salt Lake City, the tax increase from SB97 is expected to cost roughly $11 per year per $100,000 of assessed value, Olsen said.