Guest editorial: Park City School District tax increase is remarkable display of chutzpa | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Park City School District tax increase is remarkable display of chutzpa

F. Joseph Feely III
Park City

The Park City Board of Education's decision last Tuesday to increase local property taxes by $188.65 on a residence with a market values of $893,079, which is the average price of a primary home within the school district's boundaries, needs to be looked at within the context of the increase of property taxes during the past few years. For property owners who do not live within the city limits of Park City, during the past four years (from 2014 to 2018) property taxes have risen 38.96 percent, with all of this year's increase caused by the Board of Education. The increase is higher for property owners living within the city limits who have to pay for the purchase of Bonanza Flat, which many city residents now regret and consider a foolish extravagance.

The Consumer Price Index has only increased 6.14 percent over the period from October 2014 through July 2018. Accordingly, we are looking at an increase in our property taxes which is more than six times the rate of inflation during the recent past.

Things are likely to get worse for taxpayers in coming years when the county unveils its plans for increased spending and the Board of Education tries again to gain support for another school bond to fund building projects. Add to that the cost of purchasing Treasure for city taxpayers, and you have a perfect storm of property tax increases.

If you go online and look at the details of the school district's budget for fiscal year 2019, it is apparent that a substantial increase in staff is contributing to the increase in operating costs. This coming school year the number of school district employees is projected to increase 5.86 percent, with support services staff increasing 69 percent and special education instruction increasing 38.4 percent. These increases are hard to justify at a time when the number of students has only increased 1.5 percent during the past four years. Total local revenues supporting the school district for the coming year are projected to increase 17 percent, or $9,431,054, and $5.6 million of that amount comes from the property tax increase. If you dig into the details of the jargon-filled budget, you get the sense that the Board of Education is blowing off community concerns about the rising cost of government. There is a lot of community support for increasing the salaries of teachers, but not much support for increasing the number and cost of administrative staff. Why do we need more assistant principals, interventionists and a deputy superintendent, and why did we raise the pay of the superintendent by $65,000? The Board of Education has not built a convincing case for these expenditures.

None of this augers well for the upcoming battle about the school bond, which is likely to suffer the same fate as the last school bond if the Board of Education submits a larger request than the one rejected in 2015. No matter how you spin it, a 17 percent increase in school district local revenues is a big increase, and the Board of Education's lack of fiscal discipline is likely to anger the community. Instead of listening to community members' objections to out of control tax increases, the Board has ignored this problem — basically throwing this new budget in the faces of the community, while claiming to be concerned about the increase in taxes. It is a remarkable display of chutzpa.