by Howard Stephenson
Total per student spending in Utah public schools increased 0.4% in FY2003. Operations spending per student decreased 1.4% while capital and interest spending per student increased 9.2%.
The Utah Taxpayers Association recently completed its annual school district spending report for FY2002-03. The spending per student by school district is shown in the accompanying chart. Districts are ranked by size of student populations. The efficiency of a school district can be seen by comparing per student spending of districts with similar size.
Using the most current raw data from all forty Utah school districts and the Utah State Office of Education, the association calculated per student expenditures for instruction, transportation, operations, capital, and interest. The report also contains information on pupil-teacher ratios, teachers as a percent of personnel, and property tax rates. To access the report online, go to www.utahtaxpayers.org .
The report shows that total spending reached $2.947 billion in FY2003, a 1.2% increase from $2.912 billion in FY2002. Total spending includes instructional, administration, food service, facility acquisition and construction costs, and interest payments. Excluded from this amount are enterprise funds and payment towards bond principle.
Instructional spending per student decreased 3% from $3,289 in FY2002 to $3,192 in FY2003. Maintenance and operation spending per student, which includes instructional spending, decreased 1.4% from $4,750 to $4,682. Capital and interest expenditures per student increased 9.3% from $943 in FY2002 to $1,030 in FY2003.
Total spending per student in FY2003, excluding school lunch, was $5,862, nearly identical to the amount spent in FY2002 ($5,841).
Instructional spending comprised 68% of all operational costs in 2003. Since 1987, the percent of operational spending that has been appropriated to instruction annually has fluctuated between 68% and 71%. Logan’s share of operation expenditures dedicated to instruction was the highest in the state at 76%.
School districts have four major sources of revenues: property taxes, other local revenue such as fees and interest on account balances, state income taxes and state liquor tax (for school lunch), and federal dollars.
Sources of Operation Funding by School District
Statewide, 69.3% of school district operations are funded by state income taxes, but the variation on a district-by-district basis is quite large. Park City, for example, receives only 17% of its operations funding from the state while Tintic receives 90% of its operations funding from the state. This is attributable to high assessed property valuations per student in Park City and very low assessed valuations per student in Tintic.
Urban Districts vs Rural Districts
Urban districts with declining enrollment require less state funding per student. As enrollment decreases due to demographic changes, the property tax base remains intact and in many cases continues to increase in value. This combination allows more local property taxes to be spent per student which reduces the amount of state income taxes per student that the district receives.
Significant differences exist between urban and rural districts, particularly with pupil-teacher ratios, teachers as a percent of total personnel, and per student spending. Urban school districts along the Wasatch Front have the highest pupil-teacher ratios, lowest per student spending, and generally the highest percent of personnel that are teachers.