Poll: Slight Majority of Utahns Favor Property Tax Increase to Equalize School Funding

Most Utahns favor a new $75 million property tax increase the 2015 Legislature passed to equalize funding for school buildings across the 41 school districts, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

But the majority margin is not great, finds Dan Jones & Associates, and among those who said they are “very conservative” the majority opposes the new property tax increase.

The Legislature passed SB97 during its general session that ended last month, whose fiscal note you an read here.

Sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, has been working for several years in an attempt to somehow help “poorer” school districts get money to build new schools and repair old ones.

For decades, Utah has “equalized” per-student funding, meaning every school child, no matter where he lives or which district he attends, is proved the same amount of funding – called the Weighted Pupil Unit.

Not only has this been a fair way to educate children across the state, it has kept Utah out of any number of lawsuits faced in other states where individual school district student funding is uneven and unfair.

But not until SB97 has Utah moved into equalizing capital spending, or school building funding, across districts.

Most of the 41 individual school districts will get more building funding, but a few really rich districts, like Park City, will see property owners paying more tax next year, but their district actually will not get more money for buildings.

The average homeowner will pay an extra $46 a year because of SB97, the average business pay $185 more, according to a story in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Jones finds that among all registered voters, 56 are “strongly” or “somewhat” in favor of SB97, 42 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed, and 2 percent didn’t know.


The poll was conducted March 30-April 7 from 601 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percent.

Some other numbers:

  • Among those who said they are Republicans, SB97 is favored 51-47 percent; Democrats, 77-22 percent; and among political independents, 55-42 percent.
  • Women usually support education funding more than men, and Jones found that 58 percent of women favored the new property tax hike, only 53 percent of men do.
  • Among those who told Jones they are “very conservative” politically, the tax is actually opposed, 54 percent against it, only 45 percent for it.
  • All other political philosophy categories, from “somewhat conservative” to “very liberal” support the new property tax for school buildings.

SB97 passed the Senate 20-9, with 15, a majority, Republican votes. While Senate Democrats supported the bill, it didn’t need their votes to pass.

The bill passed the House 43-31, with only 33 Republicans voting for it. It takes 38 votes for passage in the House, so SB97 would not have passed there if not for 10 Democratic votes.

In debate, Osmond said not only is SB97 needed to be fair to all school children – who should have an equal chance to attend school in a new building if need be – but the bill will keep Utah out of costly lawsuits.

For certainly at some point, the family of a student crowded into older classrooms or stuck in temporary trailer classrooms in a growing district, would sue the district and state over building funding inequities – and most likely win, said Osmond.