Francis raises taxes 30% despite opposition at hearing |

Francis raises taxes 30% despite opposition at hearing

Money will be used to pay for road maintenance

The Francis City Council last month voted to increase property taxes by 31%, something that Mayor Byron Ames said was necessary to pay for road maintenance.

“We don’t have other ways to do this and we can’t say, ‘Let’s go back to dirt roads,’” he said at a public hearing last month. “I mean, that’s just not an option.”

The increase — the first in 11 years — would add $73,000 to city coffers annually, Ames said. It would mean about $94 more on property tax bills each year for a primary home worth $400,000, according to city documents. The increase would be $171 annually for secondary homes and businesses of the same value.

In a recent interview, Ames said that the city relies on grants to fund its road maintenance projects, which are unreliable sources of money.

The new funding will allow the city to pursue routine maintenance projects, officials said, which will prevent roads from falling into such disrepair that they will need to be completely replaced, which is a much costlier proposition.

The Francis City Council held a state-mandated meeting known as a “Truth in Taxation” hearing Aug. 26. Commenters spoke overwhelmingly against the tax increase.

Some said that the roads had been degraded by construction vehicles while others said costs to improve roads should be passed on to developers and people seeking to move into town by increasing permit costs.

Some asked why Francis should have the highest tax rate in South Summit.

Ames explained that the city’s lack of businesses means it doesn’t have a commercial tax base sizable enough to supplement primary residential property taxes to pay for things like roads and water systems.

“If you don’t want taxes to increase to pay for roads, then you have to get more commercial. If you get more commercial, you have to be willing to allow a lot more homes, not just the ones you’re already stressed out about,” he said. “And if you’re not willing to do that, we have to carry the burden.”

The council voted 4-1 to approve the tax increase, with Councilor Jeremie Forman dissenting.

According to Summit County Assessor Michael Howard, the value of the property in the city has more than doubled since it last raised property taxes, in 2010.

Ames said that advisers at state and county levels advocate for more frequent, smaller tax increases to avoid a big jump like the one Francis officials passed last month.

He indicated the tax increase wouldn’t be enough to do all of the road maintenance the city could use.

“If we were really going to attack our road problem, we’d double it, but nobody’s going to do that,” Ames said.

The increase will boost revenues to $311,500 annually as opposed to the $239,000 the city had been collecting, officials indicated.

Ames said the residents he had spoken with uniformly supported the tax increase as a sort of necessary evil, but that none of them showed up to the public hearing.

He identified Lambert Lane, 1000 East and Foothill Drive as roads that require particular attention.

Ames is not seeking a second term as mayor after his term ends at the end of this year. He said his political status did not make it easier to raise taxes, but added that the tax hike was something he wanted to get done so it wouldn’t fall to somebody else.

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