Utah’s population is growing as is the economy. People are moving in, jobs are plentiful, and the legislature passed a tax increase last year that will help equalize school funding and help pay for the student growth throughout the state.
House District 54 representative Tim Quinn, said he supports education funding increases, and he doesn’t think it will be compromised by the failure of the Non-binding question 1 which asked voters to approve a 10 cents per gallon gas tax increase for roads. If passed it would have diverted general road maintenance funds into education. Prop 1 was a compromise struck last March between the advocates of the Our Schools Now ballot initiative and the Utah legislature.
“I think we continue to do what we’ve been doing.” Quinn said, “If you look at the last four years we’ve increased education spending by almost a billion new dollars. We continue to do that through higher income tax revenue. We continue that higher income tax revenue because we have made decisions at the state level that continues the robust economy that we’ve enjoyed for almost a decade now in Utah. We are number one in so many categories, jobs continue to pour in, people continue to move here. The economy is strong and as we continue to do that income tax revenue will grown and of course constitutionally all of that money will go to education.”
Quinn did not vote for the tax increase. He said every income tax dollar collected goes to education. He said Wasatch and Summit County schools will ultimately pay more in property taxes which will go toward funding other districts around the state.
“A bill that raised property taxes. This was the compromise that our schools now put forward.” Quinn explained, “The bill had a measure in there that if the legislature raises funding on any given year more than 4% its another automatic property tax increase to every citizen in the state. I think we’ll be hard-pressed to do more than 4% because we won’t want to pass along another property tax increase. I have to say for Park City School District and Wasatch School District that was a very bad bill. It doesn’t give us any new money in our school districts but, yet we will pay a higher percentage of the increase than any other place in the state. Because our property values continue to rise at a faster pace than the rest of the state. These two school districts that I represent will get no money from it. It will be sent to other districts and I didn’t think that was right.”
Quinn said that non-binding question 1 may have been the tipping point for Utah voters.
“Anytime that there’s a tax increase that people pay close attention to it and the old adage I think is true. People vote with their wallets.” Quinn continued, “I did not vote for it, but the legislature passed a $330 million property tax increase that will hit the wallets of people for at least the next five years. So, there’s almost $1.6 billion in new property taxes and I think when they were looking at the additional $140 million that the gasoline tax would have brought in. They just said that’s enough.”
House District 53 representative Logan Wilde represents the eastern portion of Summit County. He didn’t like Prop 1 because it wasn’t binding but he said education funding should be increased.
“The legislature in a year could come back and take that money back.” Wilde said, “That was the frustrating part, if we’re going to do something let’s do something. I think what you need to look at too is what our population and our children are doing. Its growing exponentially. I do not think that we can just idly sit back and say we do not need funding in schools. I think we need to actually increase their funding. There’s growth coming in. What’s happening currently in our income tax and I think we’re going to be looking heavily at funding that new growth into education this year.”
Equalization bills commonly show up during the legislative session. When they are made into law, the Park City and Wasatch County School Districts property tax base typically fund less affluent districts where property taxes are lower.