Summit County Council passes two tax increases
The Summit County Council voted Wednesday in a four to one vote to adopt the 2013 budget, which includes the reinstatement of the Municipal Fund and Service Area #6 tax increases.
The two tax increases were originally passed last December, with two residents attending the Truth in Taxation meeting and speaking in opposition to the increases.
After months of spending the additional revenue anticipated from the taxes, a citizen group successfully petitioned both increases in early October this year. As a result, the council was forced to roll back the tax hike for the 2012 budget year pending a referendum on the issue, causing the County Council to scramble for a way to avoid cutting services in the meantime.
"One thing you can do is wait and have an election on the 2012 frozen tax rates," County Manager Bob Jasper told the Council at the hearing. "You can do that in June, in November or at the next General Election in 2014. But you can never get back the 2012 money."
Jasper suggested that another option is to reinstate the tax rates for 2013, and let the new council decide if a referendum for the 2012 tax increase will still be put on a 2013 or 2014 ballot.
"And they would be in the budget unless there is a petition to block it again," he said. "What I suggest to you is to include the money and see if you get a petition, and in the interim see what the legislature does in terms of changing who can sign petitions and how many votes you need.
"Then, with a new council, you have until April to decide if you want to go this way or if you want to go that way. I’m suggesting you keep your options open," Jasper added.
Councilmember Dave Ure, who cast the dissenting vote, argued in favor of not reinstating the taxes, but instead waiting for the citizens to vote in 2013. "I say, don’t put the increases in the budget, follow through with the challenge and in June hold the vote and let the people speak."
John Hanrahan expressed concern about the percentage of citizens that statistically vote in each election.
"Voter turnout in a special election is 10 percent," he said. "And a municipal election, which would be next November is 40 percent and a general election is 62 to 65 percent. If we have 10 percent of the people show up to vote on this, it doesn’t sound like what you mean to do."
Councilmember Dave Ure countered that never in Utah had there been a budget situation that was so controversial.
"If the people of Service Area #6 are as upset as they say they are, they will come and they will vote," he said. "And at the same time, I don’t believe people on the East Side want to damage Service Area #6, and they will also vote for the increase to take place. The real question is, what will happen on the Municipal Fund?"
The overwhelming majority of residents who spoke during the Service Area #6 public hearing said they were in favor of a tax increase to maintain their level of service.
Resident Ursula Pimentel said she moved to Summit County from Salt Lake County where her taxes were considerably higher for a home of equal value. "I would be grateful if you would raise my taxes to pay for the services I receive."
The potential Municipal Fund tax increase received mixed comments from the public, however.
"We do not believe the Summit Council and management did an adequate job of managing their overall budget, and we want to send the message to you that we expect more from you," petition sponsor Jennifer Castelli said, adding that raising taxes is an easy way out. "It is not my or anyone else’s job in the audience to tell you exactly where to cut. What we’re saying is do what every private sector company has to do with the economy, find the non-essential items, the nice-to-haves, and make cuts."
Tom Van Gorder, Park City School District Superintendent said the school district has Sheriff’s resource officers in their schools, and he hopes to continue to receive that benefit.
"They have been key players in what we’re attempting to do to keep our students safe and our teachers safe," Van Gorder said. "There are times where we’ve had incidents at our school where the Sheriff’s Department and Park City Police Department have cooperated together and saved many a heartache at our schools, so as you are deliberating on the budget, I ask you to consider the Sheriff’s budget in terms of eroding their ability to respond and potentially erode their ability to provide resource officers at our schools."
The County Council passed a 17.72 percent increase in the 2013 Service Area #6 tax rate. Taxes for a $500,000 primary residence will increase from $136.95 to $161.22, an increase of $24.27 a year. Taxes for a $500,000 secondary residence or business will increase from $249 to $293.12, an increase of $44.20 per year.
The increase for the 2013 Municipal Fund tax is 50.77 percent higher than current rates. Taxes for a $485,000 primary residence will increase from $125.91 to $189.83, an increase of $63.92 per year. Taxes for a $485,000 secondary residence business will increase from $228.92 to $345.13, an increase of $116.21 per year.
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