(Courtesy Park City School District)

Property tax rates for education will likely increase this year. In its last Board meeting, the Park City Board of Education learned that declining property values are forcing tax rates to go up. Despite a proposed nine percent increase in property tax rates, the District will receive less money than it did last year.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kim Carson, President of the Board of Education. “Tax rates are going up but the amount of money the District receives is going down.” The biggest reason behind this apparent paradox is that property values throughout the District have declined by $1.6 billion – a nearly 15 percent drop over last year. The District received $49.7 million in property taxes in 2009. This year, with a proposed tax rate increase of 9 percent, the District will only receive $46.5 million – a loss of $3.2 million in local education funding.

Board members are also frustrated with the timing of the budget process. State law requires the budget be set by June 22 of each year. However, important tax rate information from the State Tax Commission, State Office of Education, and the county comes in after the budget has been set and contracts have been made with various employee groups. This year, for example, the Board of Education did not receive the correct certified tax rate until July. Building the budget on projections and estimates inevitably means the budget has to be changed.

Properties valued at $500,000 this year and last, are estimated to see a $94 increase in their education property tax bill. Properties that lost value may see a reduction in this year’s property tax bill. Patty Murphy, District Business Administrator, is quick to point out that changes in individual taxes will vary. “While overall property values in the District declined 15 percent, changes in individual home and business values fluctuated. Some properties have increased in value; others have declined more than the 15 percent average.”

Because the increase in rates is driven by declining property values the Board is not required to hold a truth-in-taxation hearing. But, board members are adamant about the public being aware of the increase and that property owners be given an opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue. Board Vice-President, Michael Boyle, said that complete openness and transparency is essential to maintaining the trust of the community. In its meeting on August 17 at 6:00 pm, the Board will welcome feedback and comments relating to the proposed tax increase. Residents may also email their comments to budget@pcschools.us.