Tooele County Commissioners were told by an audience in Grantsville to keep cutting services, lay off more employees, and sell Deseret Peak Complex instead of imposing a tax increase.
“I absolutely oppose the tax increase,” said Jeff McNeil at a town hall meeting in Grantsville High School’s auditorium Tuesday. “There are some more services we can cut. You’ve only laid of 25 percent of the employees, and I feel bad for those that have lost their job, but there are companies out there that have laid off far more than 25 percent.”
Tooele County Auditor Mike Jensen told the audience that the property tax increase will be lower than originally proposed.
In November 2012, the county commission projected the need for an 82 percent increase in the county’s portion of property taxes. The increase would raise the property tax on a $150,000 home by $88 and generate an additional $2.6 million in revenue for the county.
After reviewing recent tax assessment information, Jensen said it looks like the county will only need a 66 percent tax increase, or $73 more on a $150,000 home to raise $2.6 million.
Although the property tax increase has been lowered, the audience still opposed the tax hike.
“Just do the job. If you have to lay off more people, lay them off,” said Steve Burgess. “Don’t raise our taxes. Do some management style stuff and just figure it out. Cut some more services until we ask you to raise our taxes.”
County officials explained that 100 county employees have been laid off since last fall and a $22 million annual budget has dropped to around $16 million.
The cuts in services and the budget have balanced the budget and prevented a cash flow shortage.
The property tax increase is needed to restore $6.5 million borrowed from other internal accounts to pay operating expenses for Deseret Peak Complex since 2009, said Commissioner Shawn Milne.
Some audience members had other ideas on how to pay back the money used by Deseret Peak.
“If you can’t afford something, sell the d— thing,” said Tom Clark.
Subdividing Deseret Peak and selling off parts of it was suggested by Jeff McNeil.
One speaker came to the microphone to speak in support of the tax increase.
“Comparatively what we pay in property taxes, what we pay is not bad,” said Lisa Nelson. “My brother lives in New York and he pays $6,000 a year in property taxes. We live in a small community where we support each other. I’m happy with paying my $6 a month so people at the county can have their jobs.”
Nelson, however, was outnumbered.
“If you hired people when you had money and now you don’t, I’m sorry but they have to go,” said Todd Stewart. “Make it work with what you have, cut until we beg you to raise taxes.”
This was the last of three informal town hall meetings scheduled by the county commission.
A public hearing as part of the truth in taxation process will be held on Aug. 20 before the county commission votes on the proposed tax increase.