Canyons board announces proposed teacher salary increase
May 14, 2019 03:02PM
By Julie Slama
Sarah Mortensen, Jordan Valley music teacher, instructs students in December 2017. Teachers in school districts across Salt Lake County have received pay increases over the past few years. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
As the Canyons School District Teacher of the Year celebration drew to a close, Canyons Board of Education President Nancy Tingey read a statement that brought the auditorium of educators to their feet erupting in applause.
Tingey’s statement on April 23 addressed a tentative agreement with the Canyons Education Association proposing that all Canyons teachers would receive a $7,665 per year salary increase.
“This would put the starting teacher annual pay at $50,000 — elevating the teaching profession by bringing salaries in line with those of other professionals in Utah, and making it possible for teachers to pursue their passion and do what they’re good at while also earning a living wage,” she said.
The $50,000 starting teacher salary would be the highest school district pay in the state.
However, she also said this would be made possible with a property tax increase, which will be presented for approval at a required Truth-in-Taxation hearing in August.
“All of the funds from the proposed property tax increase would go exclusively to teacher salaries. We see this investment as a positive step toward inspiring college students to regard teaching as a viable career and reinforce the belief that teaching is a destination profession,” she said.
Utah’s Truth-in-Taxation law shifts the base for taxation from a fixed rate to a fixed revenue amount, with a sliding scale for population growth or to reflect property value. It also requires local government entities to notify the public and hold hearings with intended raising of taxes to allow transparency to decision-making about taxes.
While she said more information will be available forthwith, Tingey and other board members were decisively quiet following the announcement.
“I believe we’ll just let the statement stand,” she said.
However, teachers were elated following the announcement.
East Sandy Elementary teacher and former Teacher of the Year runner-up Stephanie Cobabe supported the statement.
“Just prior to the awards/recognitions, all of the teachers in the room were asked to stand and declare, ‘I am a teacher,’” she said. “We were thanked for the work we do to help inspire, guide, and change the future for children. With this announcement, I’m certain many of us feel supported and encouraged to continue to make a difference the way we do. I am grateful for the continued support from our school communities, from the parents to our principals to our school board. We all need to be a team to make the most impactful differences.”
Canyons Superintendent Jim Briscoe said he was proud of the board.
“I think it took courage from the board to be willing to have a Truth-in-Taxation to increase the pay for teachers, to set the bar high and put that high priority on education,” he said.
However, he did acknowledge that it could be hard on some community members, such as seniors who live on a fixed income.
“They can file an appeal — a circuit breaker — with the Utah State Tax Commission so their taxes don’t go up,” he said.
There also are exemptions such as veterans with disabilities, legally blind property owners, active or reserved duty armed forces and others. (For more information, see https://tax.utah.gov/forms/pubs/pub-36.pdf)
Briscoe said there will be opportunities for community discussion about the proposal. On June 18, there will be a budget hearing and in July, discussion on the tax bill. There will be a date in August announced on the canyonsdistrict.org website where the community can speak about the proposal.
Park Lane Elementary Principal Justin Jeffery said that while the news is exciting, he could see taxpayers initially being nervous about the potential increase.
“I think when they realize the funds will just go to the teachers, they’ll be more receptive than seeing a tax increase for roads. I hear back East, the teachers have great pay and their roads have pot holes. We have great roads, but our teachers aren’t paid as well. It’s exciting that our board is wanting to give teachers more money,” he said.
Draper Park Middle School eighth grade teacher Jared Collette said this will step up the quality of teachers in Canyons District.
“With the big demand for teachers, we’ll be offering teachers a salary they deserve and filling those with great professionals who will deliver students a high-quality education,” he said.
Eastmont Middle School seventh- grade teacher Cody West supported the board’s proposal.
“When I choose to work for this district, I asked family and friends about Canyons,” he said. “My mother-in-law works at Midvale Elementary and she said how well teachers are taken care of. My experience is a true reflection of that level of dedication of the care of teachers who, in turn, take care of the future of our students. If teachers aren’t taken care of, how can students prosper? This is a step in the right direction.”
Draper Principal Christy Waddell was pumped up about the possible increase.
“I’m so excited about it,” she said. “It’s so needed. It’s impressive how Canyons District is at the forefront of it.”