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Senate Gives Preliminary Approval to Property Tax Equalization Bill

Brian Grimmett

The Utah Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill that would help equalize school funding between rich and poor school districts. 

Republican Senator Aaron Osmond’s SB97 is, at its core, a tax increase that would help fund school districts in areas where low property values don’t produce as much revenue. It would help close the income disparity between school districts in wealthy areas compared to those in less affluent areas. But Osmond says this isn’t like previous proposals that simply take money away from rich districts and give it to the poor.

“And although I would love to use that solution, and I’ve tried," he says. "In my mind, the only way for us to solve this inequity is to address it through new money by going back to the basic rate and recapturing the impact of inflation to use that money to fund true equalization.”

The state property tax increase would produce $75 million in new revenue. It would then be dispersed to school districts so that each school would have at least $1,746 per student to spend.

The Utah Taxpayers Association is one group rallying against the bill. But strangely, Sen. Howard Stephenson, who is also the president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, voted for the bill.

“Because this is going to bring those districts that are in the basement, who have high tax rates, but low yield per student, up more toward the middle on the local property tax, I think it’s fair,” Stephenson says.

The increase would cost the owner of a $250 thousand home about $44 dollars more a year. 

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