The Tooele County Commission has approved the first step to impose a new tax on property despite a loud outcry from citizens who oppose it.
On Tuesday, the commissioners adopted a Municipal Services Tax and capped the revenue collected from it for the 2014 year at $1.5 million.
The new tax is in addition to the general property tax, and only applies to unincorporated areas of the county. At a rate of .000752 the municipal services tax will add an additional $62 per year on a house valued at $150,000.
Revenue from the tax will go into the county’s municipal services fund to pay for building services, animal control, law enforcement, road maintenance, and other services provided to unincorporated areas.
Before adopting the final municipal tax rate in June 2014, the county will have an independent study completed to determine the actual cost of municipal services provided to the unincorporated areas of the county.
The revenue is capped for 2014 at $1.5 million. It may go lower than that, but it cannot exceed $1.5 million.
The municipal services fund also receives revenue from sales tax, gas taxes, fees, and permits.
In 2012 the municipal services fund used $1.2 million of $3.2 million the county received from the federal government’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
In 2013 the county received $3.1 million in PILT and allocated $322,000 of it to the municipal services fund.
The 2014 proposed budget allocates the entire $3.1 million of anticipated PILT money to the general fund.
The public hearing held at Tuesday’s commission meeting at times pitted residents of unincorporated Tooele County against city residents.
“There are better ways to get more money coming into our county than going after the citizens each time,” said Kirk Pearson of Lake Point. “This is too much too soon.”
“I’m a retired person and I can’t afford more money going out,” said Bob Salt of Erda. “I really wish you would look and find more ways to cut.”
In contrast, Myron Bateman said, “As a resident of Tooele City, and I have heard from other city residents that agree, we feel it is not right for us to continue to pay for municipal services in the county. We feel that there should be some kind of municipal tax to pay for snow removal, roads, and law enforcement in the unincorporated areas.”
Kendall Thomas of Stockton agreed. “We need to have this municipal services tax for the unincorporated areas to pay for the services they are getting. I encourage you to pass this municipal services tax,” he said.
South Rim resident Josh Maher disputed the claim that the unincorporated areas are not paying their fair share of taxes and questioned the removal of PILT funds from the municipal services fund.
“No other county in the state does not allocate some PILT money to municipal services,” he said. “And according to my calculations the unincorporated areas of the county already pay 65 percent of the property tax in the county. I don’t see any proof that the unincorporated areas of the county aren’t paying their fair share.”
Some residents of unincorporated areas are even willing to take cuts to their services instead of paying the new tax.
“I’m against the proposed tax,” said Kevin Trimble of Lake Point. “Cut my services. Don’t plow my street. I’ll plow it. I’ll move snow for my neighbors and put salt down. By the time a law enforcement officer comes to my house on a call, whatever was going to have happened will have happened. Cut the services I have if that’s what you need to do.”
Commissioner Jerry Hurst said there isn’t much left to cut.
“We’ve lost revenue and made drastic cuts,” he said. “We have cut to the point we can’t cut much more.”
Commissioner Shawn Milne recalled that he campaigned on a “I would rather tighten my belt than raise your taxes” platform. The county has tightened its belt and the new tax is still needed, according to Milne.
“We have done a lot of work to get to this,” he said. “This is the right thing to do, although it’s not the popular thing to do.”