What will happen to property taxes in Stansbury Park with or without incorporation cannot be known with certainty. However, here is what we do know:
• The two major services to be provided by the proposed city are public safety and roads.
• Tooele County currently levies a municipal services tax (MST) of .0813 percent of taxable residential property value in Stansbury Park to pay for road maintenance and public safety.
• According to the incorporation feasibility study a Stansbury City would replace the county levy with one of its own at a higher rate than the county’s for four years.
• In arriving at its conclusion, the feasibility study utilizes the most optimistic methodologies for projections of road and public safety expenditures. Other methodologies are noted in the study’s appendix. If less optimistic ones were used, the break-even point for a city levy vs. the county MST would extend beyond five years and strain the notion of a “break-even” scenario.
• Roads and police are currently provided to our community by the county at a rate of twenty-eight cents per day for a $225,000 home in Stansbury Park (average local home value per niche.com multiplied by .55 taxable value multiplied by the county municipal services tax rate of .000813 divided by 365).
The roads in Stansbury Park are well maintained by any standard of comparison. Go to Grantsville or Tooele and drive around the lesser-traveled roads. Then, come back to our community and do the same. It appears there are dynamics in city governance that make it problematic to allocate sufficient funds for road upkeep.
In regard to public safety, Grantsville budgets $1.4 million per year for its police department. Grantsville’s population is virtually the same as Stansbury Park’s. Yet, the feasibility study projects an initial annual expenditure of $511,000 for public safety in an incorporated Stansbury Park.
Proponents believe the city will be able to contract with a neighboring city or Tooele County for policing at or below this projected amount. Given the disparity between Grantsville’s policing costs and the projected cost for a Stansbury City, one has to wonder what service we would get for that price.
The county sheriff currently maintains a substation at Stansbury Park that provides us with a 24/7 police presence and access to all the resources and equipment of the department when needed. Would we get that level of service for $511,000 per year as a city? Wendover pays $400,000 per year for its contracted policing and gets far less than we currently enjoy.
There is also an allocation made in the study for general government costs. But the proponents’ website suggests that in addition, bonding would be used to fund capital improvements such as equipment and office space. Bonding is not cost avoidance; it is debt that must be paid from tax revenue.
And, there is no provision for legal contingencies like the one recently incurred by Tooele City. A municipality can purchase liability insurance, but that does not protect it from the kind of lawsuit that just cost Tooele over $11 million. How would the property owners of Stansbury Park pay for something like that?
We have a feasibility study that projects higher property taxes for the first four years of incorporation using optimistic cost projections while providing no cushion for major legal contingencies or capital requirements. It seems we are being asked to wager our 28 cents a day on a bet that our new city will be run without any mistakes, and that all optimistic cost and services projections will be realized. Sounds like quite a gamble.
Elliot Morris is a Stansbury Park resident.