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‘Our Schools Now’ drops the amount it asks from taxpayers for schools

SALT LAKE CITY — Backers of a ballot initiative for a tax hike to pay for public education have dropped the amount they’re requesting from taxpayers.

Our Schools Now announced Monday it was now planning to seek a .45 increase in sales and income taxes, instead of a .5 percent hike. The initiative supporters said it would result in a $35 a month average tax hike for Utahns.

“It’s time to increase our investment in Utah classrooms so that we can improve student achievement in Utah. We are more confident than ever Our Schools Now will be successful in next year’s election,” Gail Miller, the Utah Jazz owner and supporter of Our Schools Now said in a prepared statement.

The change in the tax amount follows a fiscal impact statement prepared by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget that found the .5 tax hike would cost taxpayers $865 million, instead of the $700 million that Our Schools Now estimated (and originally wanted).

In its statement, Our Schools Now said the tax hike would also take effect in 2019 instead of being spread out over a period of several years as originally proposed.

Recent polling has shown initial approval for Our Schools Now, despite the high cost to taxpayers. The group has argued it will bring an additional $1,000 in funding for each student in Utah public schools.

The group said it expected signature gathering to get on the November 2018 ballot to begin next month. It is one of three proposed ballot initiatives; the others are medical marijuana and an independent redistricting commission.