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School board to hold truth in taxation

Article Date: 
4 July, 2014 (All day)

The tax rate set by the state for each school district was decreased this year compared to last year, but the Morgan County School Board will not be able to pass on the savings.  To fund $348,000 in capital projects such as technology, a new bus and mechanical controls, they will need to increase the tax rate higher than that set by the Utah State Tax Commission, yet not higher than the total rate paid by county taxpayers last year.  Since the district plans to set a rate different from that set by the state, they plan to hold a truth in taxation meeting.  The school board voted unanimously to hold that meeting in August.
D’Lynn Poll, district business administrator, has spoken the last two public meetings about keeping tax rates exactly where they were set last year so taxpayers would see no change unless the valuation of their property increased.  
However, School Board Member Mark Farmer suggested setting them a bit lower than last year’s rates, but not as low as the state’s rate.
“Leaving it exactly the same (as last year) isn’t the magic number,” Farmer said.  “Bring it down a bit.”
Poll said maintenance controls throughout district buildings needs updated because “the equipment and programs we have are so outdated, they are not supported by the companies that developed them anymore.  Some of our equipment hasn’t been updated for 30 years.  If it crashed, it crashed and we would have no controls for the heating systems in our buildings.”
The board discussed Monday the difficulty budgeting for new students expected to enroll in Morgan schools.  The state predicts the number of new students, but then provides income to local school districts only for those students who actually are attending school by October.  Usually, the district considers the number the state predicts in new growth, and budget for less than that.    That way, they aren’t disappointed when less money comes in from the state than expected.
Farmer noted that large school districts don’t base their budgets on the state’s growth projections, but rather employ their own economists.  
Many board member noted that large school districts also aren’t bothered with redemption money—or large taxpayers who protest the taxes they paid in order to get a refund—the way Morgan is.  Due to several court decisions, the Morgan School District will have to pay the state back about $298,000.
“Some school districts may be able to absorb an $80,000 bill,” said Board President Bruce Galbraith.  “It may not affect them as dramatically as it affects us.”
“Large school districts see it every year and get used to seeing it,” Farmer said.  “For us, it is a blip when it hits and it hurts.”
Poll said there is no good way to get advance notice on redemptions as many are centrally assessed property taxes collected by the state.  Examples include railroad lines and gas lines that stretch from county to county.  
“The county doesn’t know until the protest is finalized,” Poll said.  “It’s not fair.  The people of the county are having to pay back the taxes a big corporation was taxed.”
Many board members said they wished there was a better way to pay these funds back, such as allowing them to pay it back gradually instead of all at once like the current system mandates.