High Desert Hoofbeats
Taxes and budgets...
by Sena Taylor Hauer
Jul 11, 2013 | 1075 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
County and school administrators have been busy preparing budgets for the coming year, which means Moab area residents will be keeping their eyes on tax rates and their upcoming property tax burden.

By the sounds of it, our elected and appointed officials are trying to be prudent with their budgets to meet current needs and plan for the future.

The good news from the Grand County Council is that the certified tax rate for 2013 will actually drop slightly, due to increases in assessed valuations of some properties, perhaps fueled by new growth and the demand for real estate here. At least I see that as good news. Those whose valuations went up may not be too happy, but that’s how the process works. Real estate values are steadily increasing here.

I’m not opposed to the expansion of the Moab community, not that I could stop it if I didn’t like it. At least it seems this new growth is partially paying its way and that longtime residents aren’t having to subsidize it. On paper that means the overall tax revenues are greater than last year, even though the tax rate is lower.

The budgets for the fire district, water conservancy, mosquito abatement, school and cemetery districts still need to be factored into the county’s overall financial outlook, which could cause the county’s forecasted rate to change, but hopefully, that will be minimally if at all.

Over at the school district, board members have decided to raise the rate of their capital local levy in order to stockpile more funds for new buildings and/or improvements. That levy, which is capped by state law at a rate much higher than the Grand County School District is suggesting, is a fund by which the district, by its own jurisdiction and without voter approval, can generate and reserve money for capital improvements.

It seems that, at least in the short term, the school district has given up on voter support to build and improve facilities and is using its own means to generate revenue. Those opposing the measure can attend the Grand County Board of Education’s truth in taxation meeting next month to voice their concerns, but the board could and should go ahead and raise the rate.

The school district has been frugal with its capital local levy, but school board members aren’t ignoring some very real concerns about aging facilities, specifically the middle school, which serves grades seven and eight. During a voted leeway effort a couple of years ago, school officials pointed out needs and failures in the district, primarily regarding the middle school, but voters still rejected their plea for help. So I support the district’s decision to more aggressively stockpile funds for improvements and make the expenditures when the district sees fit.

A committee charged earlier this year with examining whether to renovate or rebuild the middle school has put its recommendations on hold until members have a better idea of how much money can be generated for improvements. My preference is that the middle school be renovated, not razed, but that’s based on sentimental leanings and the thought that it’s more economical and environmentally friendly to reuse and recycle the existing building.

As for the school district’s general budget, it looks like the tax rate will stay the same next year as last. That’s even more good news. The district has been able to climb its way out of a dark period a few years back when accounting snafus left budgets in a shambles. As one of the most vocal critics of the school district those years ago, I now applaud the work and ambition of the school board and administrators who have held things together and are hoping to build a brighter future for education here.

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