The Provo City School District Board of Education voted Tuesday to increase the property tax rate from 0.001548 to 0.001997 to increase salaries for teachers in an effort to prevent educators from leaving the district.

The increase only applies to the board local levy portion of property taxes collected by the school district. The majority of property taxes paid by Utah County homeowners and businesses goes to school districts, while the rest goes to the county, cities, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and other special districts.

“We are looking at increasing one tax rate this year out of the six levies that the board has,” said Business Administrator Stefanie Bryant.

Under the increase, which passed unanimously, the owner of a $316,000 home within the Provo City School District boundaries will pay about $91 more per year than they would if the rate remained neutral, an increase from $1,184 to $1,275, or 7.13% more.

“But if you compare it to your prior year’s notice, you’ll see that you were paying $1,239 (in 2019),” said Bryant. “You’re now going to pay the same $1,275, and over the prior year you’re only seeing a $36 increase, which is less than 3%.”

Business owners with a similarly valued property will see their annual property tax bill increase about $165, from $2,153 to $2,318.

The increase will bring the school district an additional $3.5 million, according to a presentation given by Bryant during Tuesday’s public hearing, a 10% increase in district local tax revenue that will be used to raise the starting teacher salary to $45,000.

“The biggest question that … a few people have asked along the way in preparing for tonight’s meeting is, ‘What is this going to be used for?’ ” Bryant told the school board. “This tax increase is 100% going to be used for teacher salaries. There will be no increase for administrators for this money, there will be no increase for our support professionals from this money. It is only going to teachers.”

Bryant added that the money, in addition to $1.5 million from the school district’s existing budget that will go toward the salary increases, would help the Provo district retain teaching talent and stay competitive with other districts.

“Starting salaries has been the buzz, at least until COVID happened, it was the buzz in public ed(ucation),” she said. “So we’ve been looking at where our starting salary is at compared to other districts on and on. We’re playing a little bit of catch-up to get caught up with some other districts and keep our quality teachers in our classrooms and hope they don’t leave to get better salaries elsewhere.”

Compared to similarly sized districts in Utah, Provo City School District is “behind in many measures,” according to Deputy Superintendent Jason Cox, including starting salary, the increment people received in a raise annually, and “in the ending place of where somebody would be finishing their career.”

Bryant noted that, even with the approved increase, Provo City School District is “still behind” comparable districts when it comes to teacher salaries.

“Ogden and Tooele are very similar in size and structure as we are, because they’re one-city districts and they’re about the same size in enrollment,” Bryant said. “We are still quite a ways behind them.”

“So we’re still conservative,” said board member McKay Jensen, “is a nice word to say about what we’re doing.”

Bailey Danielson, a teacher at Franklin Elementary School who lives in the district, spoke in favor of the increase and said she has “seen our salaries in comparison to other districts every single year since that point.”

“We still are catching up to districts around us,” Danielson said, “but we are extremely grateful for this huge leap towards being able to be a district that is able to retain our teachers that are quality educators, and to be able to show them that appreciation that we have.”

One man whose children go to school in the district said he opposed the increase since Provo students will only be going to school physically a few days of the week this year while the rest of their education would take place online.

“There are many great teachers, but those many great teachers are only going to be in the classroom two days out of the week,” he said. “So I have a huge issue with that. And I have a huge issue with the amount of money that’s going to that.”

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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