The 2014 Utah Legislature will come to a close on March 13, 2014. As of March 8, the Utah Legislature has passed 210 bills. For a current listing of bills that have been passed, you can log on to the following link http://le.utah.gov/asp/passedbills/passedbills.asp.
During the 2014 legislative session, the number of bills related to education continues to increase. This session there have been 170 new bills relating to education. For an updated list you can select the following link http://www.schools.utah.gov/law/Legislative-Session/TrackingSheet-03-07-2014.aspx.
I was able to attend the Utah Rural Caucus meeting, Joint Legislative Committee Meeting and a Superintendents meeting with Senators and Representatives last Thursday. I would like to thank Representative Nelson, McIff, Noel and Senator Vickers and Hillyard for taking the time to attend the meeting. It is very beneficial to visit with them to address our concerns or support on upcoming legislation. As the bills move through the legislature, there are a few bills receiving more discussion and consideration than others. One of these bills is SB 111 which would freeze the basic property tax rate at this year’s rate. Currently, property tax rates float depending on the property values. With the basic rate frozen, the State would collect additional money as property tax values increase. SB 111 would take the additional money to an equalization fund, and the State would distribute the money to Districts based on a funding formula.
The Distribution creates winners and losers between school Districts. The controversy comes in when the numbers relating to the changes are discussed, the bill calls for a cap at $100 million. However, amendments to the bill were made on the Senate floor by Senator Howard Stephenson specifying how the money must be used specifically for HB 131 to fund the one to one device (each student receives a personal computer) initiative by Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart. The Senate passed SB 111 with a 16-12 vote and will be sent to the House for their consideration. SB 111 continues to be a bill with controversy, thus putting a hold on other bills with fiscal notes because the outcome of SB 111 remains to be seen. The Governor has weighed in on the issue saying he would consider vetoing HB 131 if the money requested for the one to one device initiative exceeded $30 million. Garfield School District may benefit from some of the current legislation, but could also lose revenue on other bills. The final financial numbers from the Utah State Office of Education will be released to the school districts at the end of March which will be the beginning of the FY15 School District budget planning.
–Superintendent Ben Dalton