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Park City school board passes budget with multimillion-dollar tax increase

Ben Lasseter

Last November, Park City voters approved a tax increase to pay for a portion of the school district’s $130 million facilities plan. On Tuesday, the school board recommended raising taxes by an additional $3.6 million to pay for salary increases and potential building cost overruns.

The average single family home in the Park City School District is worth $1.1 million, according to Todd Hauber, the school district’s business manager. Average home valuations are up more than $150,000 since last year.

“So, same pool of properties just six months later, really," Hauber said.

With the massive growth in assessed value, tax rates in the district are going down. But tax bills may be going up.

On Tuesday, the Park City Board of Education voted to raise taxes by about $3.6 million for next year. The increases are included in the 2022-2023 budget, which the board also adopted Tuesday. The district must hold what’s known as a “Truth in Taxation” hearing to officially raise taxes. That hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16.

The $3.6 million increase is joined by a separate $5 million tax increase to pay for debt the district issued to upgrade local schools. It’s the first payment for the district’s $79 million facilities bond that voters approved in November.

According to Hauber, the tax bill for a $1.1 million primary residence will go up about $154 next year. That brings the school portion of the tax bill on an average primary home to about $2,300. Second homes and businesses will pay almost twice as much.

The district is not keeping the entire $8.6 million tax increase. Utah sets a basic levy for education that raises revenue from across the state, and then it returns a set amount to individual school districts. Because of Park City’s high property values, the basic levy tax in Park City generates millions of dollars more than the district receives back from the state. In 2023, the district expects $24 million of local taxes will be collected and returned to the state — or recaptured — to be distributed to other districts around Utah.

The $3.6 million increase the board supported is to fund two different initiatives. A little more than $1.6 million is for employee raises. The district negotiated a compensation increase three years ago that planned for an $800,000 tax increase. That will raise wages and help bring starting salaries for educators with master’s degrees to $60,000.

The remaining $800,000 will triple the payment made to employees to offset their housing and transportation costs, bringing that annual payment to $3,600 per employee.

The additional $2 million increase was not included in the budget Hauber prepared for the board. Board Member Andrew Caplan raised the idea near the end of Tuesday’s meeting after the district received a status report about its $130 million facilities plan.

The board was told the project at McPolin Elementary School is more than 1% over budget and the Jeremy Ranch Elementary School project is about 3.5% over budget. Caplan said it was a “miracle” the total project is only running about 1% over budget.

“I'm just worried that we'll end up in a situation where we’re running inflation at 10%. You know, should we get there, that's another $10 million on the project, $13 million, right?" Caplan said. "So maybe we don't let the capital levy drop this year, and we keep it flat to have a buffer.”

The other board members unanimously supported an amendment to keep the capital levy at the same level it is this year. Under Utah law, that levy would otherwise have floated down to collect the same amount of money it did last year, despite skyrocketing home values.

Hauber estimated that change will add about $42 to tax bills for primary residences.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.