Truth in taxation decision brings 18 percent property tax increase
Aug 21, 2018 03:36PM
● By Jana Klopsch
About 20 residents gave comment at the Truth in Taxation meeting at West Jordan City Hall. (Erin Dixon/City Journals)
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
On Aug. 18, the West Jordan City Council approved an 18 percent property tax increase.
The last property tax increase in West Jordan City was in 2012. Before that was 1988—one tax increase in 30 years. The population has grown from 47,800 residents to 114,000 in that 30-year period.
The money from the property tax goes to several places. The majority goes to school districts and Salt Lake County. David Brickey, city manager, outlined the details of the proposal to the council and public at the Truth in Taxation meeting Aug. 18.
“[These] dollars do not necessarily end up in the city. The city gets 15 cents for every dollar collected,” Brickey said. “The city would end up with 18 cents of that dollar [with this increase].”
Increased population means more residents to collect tax from, but the income for the city is still insufficient to meet the needs of the expanding community. With an average 2.7 percent inflation each year since 1988, $1,000 does not buy as much it did 30 years ago. The same $1,000 now covers only $476 in goods and services. Inflation affects salaries, health insurance and materials for building and repairs.
The proposed tax increase was for 20 percent more than the current tax rate. The council chamber was full of residents with polarizing opinions. Some were in favor of the increase with no hesitation. Others were desperate to keep the rate the same.
Jeff Black, a husband, father and 12-year resident of West Jordan said his employer won’t raise his salary just because the city raises taxes.
“My income is not going to increase,” he said. “Please do not pass this increase. Do your best and leave things as they are.”
Jamie Bevilhymer said that her income is a fixed $14,000 per year and was not in favor of the increase.
“Citizens are made to believe they have no choice,” Bevilhymer said. “I wonder if in all your doings you can in your heart and soul say that you don’t waste, abuse or misspend. I am sure you will find the money somewhere else. It has been done before."
Colleen Laird asked the council to look again at the budget to cut out unnecessary spending.
“I would suggest you look at all the wants and the needs,” Laird said. “Clearly, fire and police are needs. What are the wants?”
Jake Thomas was in favor of the increase.
“Sometimes with police, seconds count for public safety,” he said. “It is your responsibility to protect all the citizens.”
Some of the resident comments came from West Jordan police officers.
Patrol Sgt. Hawn spoke about the needs for his force.
“We’ve had the most calls in the valley,” he said. “We are all in favor of this. This is not raises for us. We have domestic violence, we have rapes, we have priority calls. It takes us three or four hours to get to the lower priority calls. Let us recruit and retain the officers. Please help us out.”
In total, there were nine resident comments in favor of the increase—nine opposed and two that were fence-sitters.
Mayor Jim Riding addressed a concern that was brought up several times during the public comments: cutting unnecessary spending.
“I put budgets together for this city for years,” he said. “Working through those budgets, I never felt we had any fluff.”
Councilmember Chris McConnehey was in favor of the 20 percent proposed increase but was hesitant because he said he understood the impact it would have on some residents.
“I really don’t like being in this position,” he said. “You’re here to represent your neighbors, and this is something that is very divisive and emotional for everyone. Call volumes jumped by 97 percent since 2015. As much as I don’t like it, I would support the 20 percent changes.”
Councilmember Chad Lamb also addressed the question of cutting out current spending.
“I don’t think these are wants,” he said. “We need more than five [officers]; we need 10. We need more than 10. I wish we could fund 20. I’m all for looking ways to cut, but really, we are short on services on most areas in the city. As you listen to us talk, remember we are citizens of the city as well.”
Councilmember Zach Jacob was not convinced that the 20 percent was necessary.
“Nothing is an urgent need,” he said. “No one’s house is burning down today because we don’t have fire. The bottom line for me is that we need to look at the fund balance.”
Councilmember Kayleen Whitelock was the first to propose a reduced 18 percent increase.
“While you are in these seats, you make tough decisions,” she said. “While you are in those seats, you’re thinking something different. Most people are in favor of crossing guards, police and fire. My motion mayor is that we increase taxes by 18 percent.”
The votes were as follows: Riding, yes; Anderson, yes; Jacob, no; McConnehey, yes; Whitelock, yes; Lamb, yes; Burton, no.
There are aids available for those who are financially unable to meet the new tax increase. Please see (article written about tax aid referenced here please, with page reference for print and URL for digital) for more information.
City needs more businesses for tax revenue
Another factor for the need for increase in property tax is that most of West Jordan is residential space. Other cities such as West Valley and Sandy have large commercial zones that help offset the costs for the residents. Currently, West Jordan residents spend more outside the city than they do inside.
Kent Andersen is the city’s new economic development director. He previously worked for Layton City and instigated much of the economic growth there in the past few years. He is working on the Copper Rim Development as well as an auto dealership that would bring in more than $1 million for the city each year.
Brickey also gave suggestions to residents to bring more money to the city.
“It might sound strange, but tell your representative that you want a liquor store,” he said. “That could bring in $1 million to $2 million per year. Tell them, ‘I don’t want to shop there, but I want it in my city.’”
Scott Langford, community development director, also gave details about improvements to Jordan Landing that could attract more business and income for the city.
“Just tonight at another meeting, my staff approved some additional signage [for Jordan Landing],” he said. “[The developer has plans] to revamp and refresh to infuse more life into Jordan Landing.”
For more information about the increase, visit: www.westjordan.utah.gov/truth-in-taxation.