I teach 6th grade at Morgan Middle School, and I would like to give you my perspective as a teacher in a school district that is struggling financially.
Whenever the topic of higher taxes comes up, we all moan and groan…myself included. Who wants to pay higher taxes? However, at the same time, I also realize that taxes are necessary to pay for community needs. Morgan is a unique county when it comes to paying for schools and other essential services. 96 percent of land in Morgan County is privately owned. We have very few industries, very few businesses, very few second homes, and most residents work outside of the county. Because our poverty level is only 1.1 percent (state average is 10.8 percent), we are excluded from alternative state and federal funding. These factors contribute to the reason our school suffers when it comes to school funding.
Morgan County has the second highest median income in the state at $70,152, second only to Summit County. We also pay some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. I pay less property tax in Morgan than I have paid anywhere we have lived in Nevada, Idaho, or other Utah cities and that is on a house with a higher assessed value than others we have owned. Although the range of $26.18 annually for a home valued at $100,000 to $104.71 annually for a home valued at $400,000 may be a hardship for some individuals, as a collective community it is reasonable.
We have 347 more students today than we had in the 2008-09 school year. However, Morgan School District has received $4,311,946 less in state funding from 2008 to 2013 to educate students. As the housing market continues to recover, Morgan school enrollment will continue to increase dramatically. My classroom is bursting at the seams with 30 plus desks, and physically, I don’t know where more could be added. The school board has made its promise that money raised from the levy will be used entirely for student instruction. Preserving programs, teachers, and support staff is important to give our students the best possible educational experience they deserve.
The district has been making cuts to the budget each year since 2008, equaling more than $1 million. I cannot tell you every dime the district spends. I can tell you that with my allotted annual classroom budget of less than $200, I have to scrutinize every dollar. I teach science to over 90 students every day and next year it will be around 120 students as I pick up an additional section of science. It is obvious that $200 doesn’t buy a lot of science lab consumables for the entire school year. I have been extremely fortunate the past several years that observant and generous parents have donated to the science labs, alleviating my personal financial burden. While donations and fundraisers are extremely helpful to the individual teacher, they are an inadequate way to fund the yearly operational expenses of the entire school district.
I grew up in this beautiful valley and feel like it’s a wonderful place to call home. It’s one of the reasons we moved our family back to Morgan 17 years ago. We love Morgan because it is a small quiet town filled with wonderful caring people. Having such a quality of life sometimes comes with a price. That is why I will be voting YES to the voted local levy on June 25.