ST. GEORGE – The Washington County School Board looked at a proposed $193.8 million budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 and approved a closing budget for the previous year of $187.6 million.
The budgets were presented to the Washington County School District Board of Education at a regular meeting Tuesday at the district offices.
After a public hearing at which no one commented, the final 2015-2016 budget was approved. The proposed 2016-2017 budget is subject to another public hearing in August.
The school district gets 47-48 percent of revenue from state revenues, about 38 percent from property taxes, 8 percent comes from the federal government and the remainder from other sources.
About 46 percent of the budget will be spent on instruction costs, 17 percent for facilities, 21 percent for support services, 12 percent for debt service for bonds and about 3 percent for food service.
Total student enrollment is projected to be 28,793 in October which is an increase of 626 students, a 3.8 percent increase. Final numbers won’t be known until school starts in the fall, Washington County School District Business Administrator Brent Bills said.
About $49 million will be spent this year on construction of two elementary schools, a middle school and to start construction on a new high school.
The board agreed to forgo property taxes on the increased value of improvements to several properties in order to incentivize development.
If the final contracts are signed, the district will forgo taxing the amount of the increased property value caused by improvements to properties or businesses.
The idea is to reduce or defer property taxes temporarily and use the money to encourage the properties to be developed, thereby gaining tax revenue in the long run, Bills said.
“What they’re asking us to do is forgo collecting those additional property taxes that we would get off the expansion so that they can use that money to help … provide incentives for the business to stay there and expand,” Bills said.
“We don’t get less money, it’s just we don’t get the additional money off of the expansion for up to 15 years or until those things are paid off, whichever is sooner.”
The agreements gives taxes on the increased value of the projects – which would normally go to the school district – to the Neighborhood Redevelopment Agency of St. George. The agreements last for 15 years and the funds are used to help develop the property.
The agreements are a continuation of partnerships the district and the St. George City have had in the past, St. George City Manager Gary Esplin told the board.
The agreements include projects in the Millcreek Industrial Park and downtown St. George. The Millcreek project includes two companies that want to expand.
A planned expansion by RAM Company would result in 100 new jobs and involve $10 million in improvements, Esplin said, and the company has already received an incentive from the state.
“This would allow us to use the new value to help match the state’s incentive,” Esplin said.
Quality Park Products wants to make $23 million in improvements inside the existing building which would result in 25-50 new jobs, Esplin said, adding that all the district would be giving up is the percentage of the new development.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike also spoke to the board in favor of the agreements.
“I think it’s nice when we can help through these – very few ways we can, legally – but when we can keep our companies here that have worked so hard,” Pike said, adding that RAM Company is locally owned and has been in business for 40 years. The company has 220 employees with a gross annual revenue of about $32 million.
The Central Business District project involves 44-acres in downtown St. George. The existing tax base for the area is $27 million, Esplin said, and the first project that will be built is a $25 million project.
“So you can see that if we can get these projects to go forward it’s going to double the tax base over that period of time,” Esplin said.
Projects in the downtown area require parking structures, which can be prohibitively expensive, Bills said, but can be feasible with help from the district and the redevelopment agency.
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