ST. GEORGE – Citing inflation and the need to keep teacher salaries competitive, the Board of Education for the Washington County School District approved a 1.85 percent tax increase during a public Truth-in-Taxation hearing Tuesday.
One school board member voted against the tax increase.
“I default on the side of the taxpayer even though we do need more money for the teachers, even though inflation is real,” school board member Craig Seegmiller said, who was the lone dissenter in the vote. Interim board member Ralph Brooks did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of compelling arguments for why it needed to happen,” Seegmiller said. “But I always want the public to know that we’re listening. I want the public to know that we understand that there are compelling arguments on the other side too.”
Seegmiller said he hasn’t ever voted for a tax increase.
“Always, always, always I want to default to ‘how do we do more with less?’ Now, in school districts, we’re already doing more with less and it’s tough,” he said.
Only seven members of the public spoke at the meeting, held at the school district offices, 121 West Tabernacle Street in St. George. Of those, one wanted to appeal her property valuation, a function of the Washington County Assessor’s Office.
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Three educators and one county resident spoke in favor of the tax increase. Another man asked how many people have children in school but don’t own property and therefore don’t pay property taxes.
Local developer Dean Terry spoke to the board at length, encouraging them to be frugal and suggesting they consider a year-round school schedule. He pointed out that school lawns are watered and maintained all year even through the summer when class is not in session and that costs money.
“Water is precious,” Terry said. “Those green, beautiful lawns maintained in every way during the summer kind of grind on some of us.”
The tax hike will increase the district’s portion of property taxes by 1.85 percent and bring in $713,000.
For taxpayers, it is the fourth increase in four years; the school board raised taxes 3 percent in 2015 and 6 percent in 2014, in addition to a $185 million construction bond passed by voters in 2013.
Read more: Third tax hike in 3 years? School board sets public hearing
The increase will raise property taxes on an average home – valued at $245,197 – by $7.96 each year. Businesses valued at the same amount would see an increase of $14.47 per year. The tax will be included in the county’s 2016 property taxes.
About the Washington County Board of Education
The Washington County Board of Education was established under the authority of the Utah Constitution and consists of seven members elected by district to four-year terms. The last general election for the school board was held November 4, 2014, filling four seats. Three seats are up for election in November.
The Board of Education is authorized to levy taxes for public schools within the district.
Other entities with the power to levy property taxes include cities, Washington County, the Mosquito Abatement District and the Washington County Water Conservancy District. To increase taxes, a taxing entity must hold a hearing to take public comment but is not legally bound by comments received.
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