Taxes, enrollment, staffing decreasing together

The Grand County School District Board of Education voted on Aug. 11 to approve a small decrease to its property tax rate. The decrease comes after the board lowered tax rates in 2020 from the 2019 levels, as well.

The recent decrease was noticed as a tax increase because it exceeded the certified tax rate — the rate at which the state allows school districts to tax without advertising that taxes are increasing.

For some in Moab, the change will mean an overall decrease in how much they pay to the school district.

For others, the change coincides with property reassessments by Grand County Assessor Debbie Swasey that have meant an increase in the taxable values of local homes and businesses, and that increase means paying more in taxes each year.

Pat Wilson, the district’s business administrator, presented budget figures that show much of the funds are allocated to capital outlays, specifically to pay off the construction of Margaret L. Hopkin Middle School. Another large portion will go to teacher salaries.

Data Wilson presented shows that Grand County is set to give local teachers a smaller raise than other districts will this year. Carbon and San Juan counties will provide 5% and 6% raises across the board this year; Grand’s base pay raise will be 3.5%.

Emery County schools had not yet settled negotiations when he presented the data.

This second consecutive tax rate decrease comes after a sharp decrease in enrollment last school year due to the pandemic, from just under 1,500 students in the 2019-2020 school year to roughly 1,380 in the 2020-2021 school year. Enrollment figures for the current year will not be final until October.

And with both the decrease in enrollment and tax rate, the school district also cut staffing in the general fund for the upcoming school year by $600,000.

Moab Travel Council awarded for its Do It Like A Local campaign

During her final week on the job in Grand County, Elaine Gizler, the outgoing director of the Moab Travel Council, said that the council’s Do It Like A Local ad campaign won the U.S. Travel Association’s award for best Advocacy and Grassroots Campaign.

The ongoing campaign aims to promote sustainable tourism to Moab following the influx of visitors in recent years.

“The idea is that Moab locals know what’s best,” reads the entry on the travel association’s site. “They know the best hiking and biking trails, stretches of river, and the best places to eat. They know everything about Moab, including knowing what’s best regarding the proper care for Moab and the natural environment surrounding it.”

The campaign beat out two other finalists, both focused on pandemic recovery. One was by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority in North Carolina and the other was by Visit Lauderdale in Florida.

“How fitting as I am leaving,” Gizler said of the win. “The staff us thrilled.”

Local director joins top 10% of airport executives

Andy Solsvig, the director for Canyonlands Regional Airport, recently earned the distinction of Accredited Airport Executive by the American Association of Airport Executives.

The association said in a press release about Solsvig’s achievement that fewer than 10% of its members nationwide were active, accredited executives.

To earn accreditation, Solsvig completed two exams and demonstrated in a final interview of association panelists his knowledge of airport management, business administration, and general transportation economics.

“Andrew’s achievement attests to his ability to meet this stringent requirements and his experience in managing a public airport,” the association said.