By Holly Coombs
CEDAR CITY–In a truth-in-taxation public hearing on Aug. 8, the Iron County School Board approved by unanimous vote to increase the property tax, with an increase of $532,000 in total revenue. The vote was followed by comments from many residents and teachers.
The board voted to increase the local levy tax from the current rate of .000624 to .00080 and the capital local levy of .000999 to .001000 for the coming year. As an example of how this increase will affect property owners, the property taxes in 2017 on a home with an assessed value of $189,950 will increase from $433.56 to $465.43, a difference of $31.86. A business owner with property of the same value will pay $846.23, as opposed to the $788.29 they paid last year, a total increase of $57.94.
The district estimated $299,000 from the voted local levy to cover a salary increase the five-member board previously awarded to teachers last year. In addition, they are considering using the money for future salary increases or to raise the base salary rate teachers are currently earning.
Other possible uses of the increased revenue will be curriculum programs for students including CKLA and GO Math, both to assist in area of language arts and math, ongoing digital teaching and learning support, dual immersion support and professional development.
The other $233,000 the district is anticipating from the capital local levy may go toward purchasing security cameras for buses or various schools, including all three Iron County high schools, Canyon View Middle School and Iron Springs Elementary. The revenue may also be used to purchase additional buses, technology to support digital teaching and learning and a preschool.
In a full room, about 10 different individuals voiced their opinions on the matter.
Before the hearing, Board Vice President Harold Hayne said the district has lost teachers to other districts that pay more than what Iron County could pay before the tax increase.
Evan Ludley, the first speaker at the hearing, said people know power to tax is the power to steal money and that he was against the tax increase.
“(The district) needs to live within the budget,” Ludley said. “Times have changed, wasting money has not.”
Roger Steel spoke of his wife, who is currently a math teacher within the district.
Steel said his wife took a $27,000 per year pay cut to teach math in the Iron County School District.
“As hard as it is to take a pay cut, it’s hard to find good math teachers,” he said.
Others expressed their support for teachers and the school district but adamantly opposed the tax increase.
The starting wage for teachers in Iron County is currently between $28,000 to $30,000 per year, with top wages at about $40,000.
All of Utah’s teachers received a salary increase at the most recent legislative session, when a 4 percent increase in the value of the weighted pupil unit was approved. Additionally, legislators granted $240 million in new money to public education.
Doug Miller, another spouse of a district teacher, said he was against the tax raise, but for the teacher raises.
Teacher Matthew Vampire said that he agreed with the programs that the board plans to incorporate in the schools.
“I’m excited that for less than $3 per month, we can do more for the students,” Vampire said. “I don’t understand why we can’t bring this before the public and do something fierce.”
The school board members listened to comments about an hour before Hayne closed the hearing.
Superintendent Shannon Dulaney was among many on the board who expressed their thoughts on the difficulty to decide on the increase.
“I’m grateful for this community and the education here. This was not an easy decision to come to,” Dulaney said. She then spoke of her move to Cedar City from California.
“My son, who was in high school, came home one day and said ‘All my teachers are my favorite teacher in California,’” she said. “That was the best day of my life to know that the move was right and the education in Iron County is the best.”
PHOTO by Holly Coombs