The Park City School Board unanimously passed a $5.6 million tax increase on Tuesday evening. Four of the five public comments given during the hearings expressed concern with the budget increase. Carolyn Murray has this:
The Park City School District Business Administrator, Todd Hauber kicked off the meeting with a presentation outlining the details of how school funding in Utah works. He also supplied a summary of the budget. Details of his presentation can be found on the district website.
Park City teacher and resident, Mark Parker made remarks on behalf of the Park City Education Association stating that the teachers are grateful for the decisions of the board to increase salaries in last year’s contract negotiations.
“..By increasing teacher’s salaries during the last round of teacher negotiations, the Board got closer to attracting and retaining the highest quality teachers in Utah and across the nation. Those of us who are lucky enough to have gotten in when it was so affordable, are concerned. We’re concerned that new teachers can’t afford to live here. We’re concerned about the distances that teachers have to travel to live in our district. We’re concerned about losing teachers in our community and we are concerned about school safety. We support what’s doing best for our students and we support the Board’s decision to raise taxes and we support creating a sustainable budget for the next five to 10 years."
Resident and retired school teacher, Jim Tedford is concerned with the increase in spending on new administrative positions. Tedford states that the board has spent the money on the new Superintendent and the three new Vice Principals in spite of the nearly flat growth.
“You recently hired 3 new Assistant Principals for approximately $450,000 dollars plus benefits. Since student enrollment is projected to increase by .09 percent, that means that Ecker Middle School and Treasure Mountain Junior High will be getting approximately seven new students each and Park City High School will be getting 11 new students. It’s hard to justify another 450 thousand dollars for these 25 new students. You recently hired a new superintendent with a base salary of $235,000 dollars plus the use of a house which represents an additional benefit of around $40,000 dollars for a total of $275,000 dollars. The last superintendent was paid a salary of around $170,000 dollars. It is hard to justify an increase of $105,000 dollars for the same position.”
Tedford asked the Board to reconsider hiring a new Deputy Superintendent at a cost of 175 thousand dollars base salary. The job is currently posted on the school website.
Resident Steve Swanson points to an increase in the tax base from 12 Billion in 2009 to 15.5 billion in 2017. He says he supports the increase in teacher salaries and believes it should be the largest line item on the budget.
“The number of students in the district has gone up since ’09 of 4574 to 4850, plus or minus. That’s a 6 percent increase. In just instruction, as a line item, ’09-25.6 million. It’s by far the largest line item in the budget and it should be. Most impressive to me was the administration…you go back to ’09, there were two-line items totaling 4.4 million, in ’09. So, nine years later, nine million dollars. So that’s a 125 % increase.”
Park City Council member, Steve Joyce said the Park City School District student enrollment growth does not justify adding so many new Administrative positions.
“...and then I went and looked at the hiring and since 2013, about the same period of time, the full- time equivalents have gone up about 85 people and I would offer it’s hard for me as a citizen to understand how we literally have added almost one employee for every student.”
Board President, Andrew Caplan says the expectations of the community have changed in recent years.
“No one knows that more than our teachers who see it every day whether they’re asked to deal with mental health issues or poverty issues….you know the things that that they’re asked to deal with that didn’t come up as frequently 10 years ago."
Caplan encourages everyone to visit the school district website to listen to past board meetings or to contact board members if they have questions about the budget.
The tax increase approved Tuesday night is the third in the Park City School District since 2013. The meeting was an opportunity for the public to see a full presentation on the tax increase and to give the Board of Education feedback. In June, the school board approved the budget which included the tax increase. The property tax liability will be $189 dollars on a $900,000 dollar residence. This represents a 13.64% increase above last year’s property tax revenue.