For Tooele City citizens and taxpayers who are concerned, or just mildly interested in the future of their city, there’s a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Tooele City Hall they won’t want to miss.
As explained in a story on today’s front page, the Tooele City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing that night on the city’s proposed $48 million 2018-19 fiscal year budget. A big part of that budget is a proposed city tax increase. It’s the first tax increase the city has sought in 36 years, Mayor Debbie Winn says.
Projected to net an extra $3 million per year for the city for a total of $5.5 million from property tax, it could be said the increase is a big one. Winn knows this and has even expressed regret over it. “… I’m sorry we have to be the bad guys,” she has said about her and the city council seeking more tax revenue.
But Winn and the city council say the increase is needed for payroll and benefits adjustments for all city employees (except elected officials), to hire more police officers, buy new equipment, help pay off a lawsuit judgment, build a new public safety building for the police department, and cover budget shortfalls.
When the tax increase was first proposed in early May, it stood at approximately 129 percent. Since then the city council and mayor have made adjustments, namely letting go, for now, of constructing a new fire department building. With that off the budget, the proposed tax increase has lowered to 115 percent.
Yet despite the 14-percent drop, the proposed tax increase remains anything but small. If approved Wednesday night, and finally adopted after a Truth in Taxation hearing this coming August, a $240,000 homeowner would see their city property tax payment rise from $242 in 2017 to $519 in 2018. The increase totals $278, according to figures provided by the city’s finance department.
Likewise, a business in the city with a taxable value of $500,000 would see its city property tax payment rise from $916 in 2017 to $1,968 in 2018. According to figures provided by the city’s finance department, the increase totals $1,052.
When the city council and mayor began the budget process in late February with town hall-style information meetings, they and city department heads openly revealed several budget shortfalls the city could no longer defer to maintain fiscal stability and provide quality service. Instead of using vague generalities, the council and mayor made it clear that a city property tax increase was a certainty this year to cover those shortfalls and to build for the future.
Wednesday night’s public hearing could be considered the climax to more than three months of strategizing and reviewing by the city council and mayor to take the city in a new direction — a direction that will require greater financial participation by city taxpayers to succeed.
Based on what has been discussed since February to the present, it is evident the city needs increased revenue to meet its objectives. The city council and mayor have been transparent throughout that process. Yet, questions remain if other solutions or approaches are possible instead of a 115-percent tax increase. Citizens and taxpayers are urged to learn more about the proposed budget and tax increase — and to make their feelings known — for or against — during Wednesday night’s public hearing.
Such would be healthy and needed public discourse over a significant proposal that should undergo citizen scrutiny before being adopted.
The proposed budget is available for public review at City Hall, and on the city’s website at tooelecity.org. Just click on “Quick Links” in the navigational bar, then click on “Transparency in Government” and then click on “City Budget.” The proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget is there, along with budgets dating back to fiscal year 2011-12.