logo-sized-clean-500

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Written by Barbara Clark, staff reporter

The Millard School District voted to increase property taxes by 7.85 percent Wednesday night following a truth-in-taxation hearing where many residents spoke for and against the proposal.

 

The district expects to raise approximately 1.3 million dollars from the property tax increase. This increase will give all teachers a two percent salary enhancement, 40 to 160 hours of professional training for instructional teachers in the use of digital teaching, 40 classroom sets of 30 chromebooks each year to be incrementally rotated and renewed, and smart boards, internet on buses, security cameras, and other technology needs.

Superintendent David Styler presented a detailed plan that detailed why the funds were needed and where the money would be spent. He said that there had been a sharp decline in teacher applications. In 2015, there were 11 open positions with 49 applicants. In 2016, there were 7 openings with 19 applicants. This year there were 11 openings with only 17 applicants, according to Styler. Attracting and retaining good teachers with adequate training is critical to the digital learning initiative, Styler said.

He also explained the importance of the digital learning initiative and the relevancy with the students. Funds from the increase would allow the district to invest in and update technology tools that would allow students to work on chromebooks in every class. Internet access would be made available in activity buses and hotspots and hubs will be put into place, according to Styler.

“One problem we have had is the amount of classroom work students miss because they are away for extra curricular activities. Teachers will have the ability to record the lesson and put it on the Internet so that students can have access to, and work on the lessons while traveling on the bus,” Styler said. Internet service will be filtered, so that social media and streaming of music or movies, as well as inappropriate material will not be available.

One concerned citizen asked if there were another means for the funds available, would outside means be considered? The board agreed that these types of funds would be welcome, as long as no strings were attached. They also said that the decision would have to be made after the close of the public meeting because of time restraints from the state.

Several comments were expressed from the public regarding how difficult it would be for persons on a fixed income to pay this tax when many were just getting by.

Adam Richins said that he thought that teachers’ salaries and the technology portion of the initiative should be two separate issues. He also commented that he appreciated all the district does for his children.

“This is not a one time tax increase. This is perpetual. How do you intend on spending this 1.3 million dollars after two or three years?” asked Dean Draper.

The board explained that all the costs were perpetual, and the technology would be updated and replaced.

“I don’t think what you guys are doing is illegal, but I sure think it is unethical,” Donald Brown said.

He explained that farmers will be taking the largest brunt of the tax load, and that farmers have taken enough of a hit with dropping hay prices and other economical factors.

“I am supportive of the tax increase,” Ron Draper said. “We need to invest in our students.”

No one likes tax increases, but all are indirectly benefitted by the investment Ron Draper said.

“There are circumstances in Millard County that make this decision very crucial,” said Dean Draper in the capacity as Millard County Commissioner.

Intermountain Power plant will be decreasing their manpower by 80 percent. IPP currently pays two-thirds of the property taxes collected in Millard County. Because IPP has a legal depreciation in their value, the proposed initiative would cause a heavy tax shift to the regular taxpayers.

IPP is legally entitled to have a back up water system. Because Yuba is at an all time low, IPP allowed overages on irrigation water to help farmers through the growing season, according to Draper. This is the fifth season that they have carried the water with an overdraft for irrigation. Next year, IPP will call in the water overture and bring the water back up to the level it is supposed to be at. Because of this water shortage, farmers will be looking at curtailed crops and their income will decline.

There are different levels of income, he said. Many will be hard hit with this proposed tax. Draper mentioned the hardship this would place on widows in the county on fixed incomes. Because, this proposed tax increase is of such momentous consequence for the county, “I feel that this is not a proper time — this is ill advised,” Draper said.

Pat Manis voiced similar concerns in the capacity of the County Assessor. He said that if the proposal is voted in, it is a 15 percent increase from 2010. At that time, the property tax generated $10,895,000. The increase would generate $16,445,000 – a 50 percent increase in local taxes since 2010.

Approximately 50 citizens attended the hearing. About half of the group was in support of the proposed tax increase.

In a brief discussion by the board they expressed that the consideration to raise taxes was difficult. The proposed tax initiative was approved with board Vice President, Jeff Schena and board members Todd Hold and David Lund voting for the proposal and board President Adam Britt and board member Gordon Rawlinson voting against.

“It is our responsibility to empower and enable our children to do great things in the world,” Jeff Schena said. “If we don’t push ahead, they will get left behind.”