Tax referendum gains momentum
Summit County residents are ready and willing to sign their names to a referendum that will put two tax increases on the 2014 ballot so residents can vote on them, according to Coalville resident and member of the conservative S.T.A.R forum Jacqueline Smith.
The group has three weeks left to gather 2115 qualified signatures to put on the 2014 ballot the two tax increases adopted by the County Council on Aug. 22: the municipal tax rate and Service Area #6, both which will tax effected residents $24 on every $500,000 of assessed valuation of their property tax bill.
"Most of the people we talk to are anxious to sign it, so things are good," Smith said.
She got a call from a man who heard about the referendum, saying he knows 10 to 15 people who are ready to sign.
Those who are against the referendum are primarily concerned about their county jobs," Smith said. "Dave Edmunds called me and said he was told by the County Council that they were going to cut his budget significantly and he would be forced to lay off police officers."
But she writes that off as a scare tactic, saying they can take the needed money out of the county’s general fund and cut in other places if they have to.
"Those who want to sign the referendum are totally excited about it," she said. "They feel like this County Council has been negligent in their responsibilities as far as living within their budget and their means, and they are tired of the council continually just raising taxes."
They also feel like the increases are a slap in the face to people who are in unincorporated Summit County because there are fewer of them than people in the city, she said.
"So we’re carrying the major burden of the county roads, and that’s an unfair thing to do," Smith said. "This needs to be something that is for the entire county. It’s like just the unincorporated people of the county are driving county roads. Everyone drives those roads, so it’s something that needs to be spread throughout the county, not just put on the backs of one section of people."
She called the public hearings a dog-and-pony show, saying once the County Council has made up it’s mind, the members don’t hear the other side but are already ready to move forward.
"It was, ‘We are here to listen to your grievance, but we don’t care. We’ve already spent it and we’re going to tax you anyway.’ And that’s easy to do if they don’t have any pushback," Smith said.
She said the referendum is the residents’ push back for them to say they are tried of the same answer every time.
"But here are other ways move forward with the things the county needs rather then always raising a tax," Smith said.
But in an earlier interview, Summit County Councilmember Sally Elliot said dipping into general funds for a portion of the population is also unfair, saying the county has worked very hard to make sure that people who actually receive services are the people who are paying for them.
"We have been performing municipal services for quite a long time," Elliot said. "We have been performing those services even though we’ve been performing them at a loss to those accounts."
She said the council’s hope is to no longer extend general county revenue to provide specialized services to a small group of people.
"It’s simply an issue of fairness," Elliot said.
If the referendum gains enough signatures, the tax increases will be put on hold until citizens vote to pass or not pass them.
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With the possibility of the 2030 Winter Olympics being awarded next May, Park City and Summit County leaders are poised to give residents the chance to share their opinions in the coming months.