Tooele County taxpayers will get a first look at an independent study Thursday that explains how much is spent on municipal services in unincorporated areas of the county.
They’ll also get a look at just how much more taxes they may have to pay to keep getting those services.
The study’s results, completed by Zions Bank Public Finance, will be unveiled at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rush Valley Town Hall.
The 2014 budget for Tooele County, adopted by the county commission last December, included a municipal services tax with a revenue cap of $1.5 million.
“Zions Bank Public Finance is ready to present their findings to the public in a series of town hall meetings,” said Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne. “They will present their numbers, their methodology, and discuss proposed methods of financing municipal services.”
The Tooele County Commission, at their February 18, 2014 meeting, approved a $16,500 proposal by Zions Bank Finance for the municipal services fund study.
Municipal-type services include public safety, roads, community development and administrative support services, such as human resources, information technology, and management.
The study’s conclusion will include recommendations on how best to fund those services, including recommendations for a municipal services tax rate, said Milne.
Identifying municipal expenses in all departments proved to be challenging, the commissioner noted.
“Some departments do not track if a service was performed for a resident of an unincorporated or incorporated area,” said Milne. “In other departments it came down to determining how much of an expense, like for certain roads, were primarily for an unincorporated area.”
The first town hall meeting is scheduled for April 17 at Rush Valley Town Hall, followed by April 22 at Stockton Miners Cafe. Another town hall meeting will be held April 28 at Deseret Peak Complex and April 30 at a location yet to be determined in Stansbury Park. The Lake Point fire station will host a town hall meeting on May 15. Each town hall meeting will start at 7 p.m.
A second meeting may be scheduled in Stansbury Park, said Milne. The town hall meetings will be conducted by staff from Zions Bank Public Finance.
The Zions Bank Public Finance employees that lead the study — Matt Millis, a vice president and Tenille Tingey, a financial analyst — both live in Stansbury Park, according to Milne.
“It’s nice that the people doing the study have some skin in the game,” he said.
The format for the town hall meetings has not been determined, however Milne described a tentative agenda that will include time for Zions Bank Finance staff to explain their methods, parameters, and conclusions, along with an opportunity for questions from the public.
Following the town hall meetings, the commission will hold a formal public hearing on the municipal services tax in June or July, followed by a vote to approve or disapprove the tax and set a tax rate, if the tax is approved, according to Milne.
To collect the $1.5 million maximum amount, property owners in unincorporated Tooele County would pay an additional $62 per year on a house valued at $150,000. That amount is based on 2013 property valuations.
The municipal services tax was first proposed by commissioners in October 2013 when they conducted their first public discussion on the 2014 budget, two months after adopting a $2.6 million property tax increase — the first property tax increase for the county in 27 years.
The $2.6 million in last year’s property tax increase was earmarked to repay $6.5 million that were borrowed from other county funds to pay operating expenses for Deseret Peak Complex in past years; restore the county’s fund balance or rainy day fund; and establish a fund for capital expenses.
The $1.5 million in proposed municipal services tax revenue will be collected from only property owners in unincorporated areas of the county and be used as revenue for the municipal services fund, which pays for “city like” services the county provides to these property owners.
During budget hearings for the 2014 county budget, property owners in unincorporated areas of the county defended themselves against claims by county residents of incorporated areas that unincorporated area residents were not paying their fair share of county expenses. The discussion lead to renewed, although currently unpursued, discussion of incorporation for Stansbury Park.
State code requires counties of Tooele’s size to budget appropriations for municipal services from either a municipal service fund or through establishing a local service district. The code allows for municipal service fund revenue to include fees and charges for services and federal dollars. However, the municipal service fund cannot receive support from any fee or tax based on a countywide assessment or service.
In 2011 the commissioners tried to impose a municipal services tax that would have generated $400,000. But they dropped it after citizens decried the proposal during a public hearing.
The municipal services tax was proposed again in 2013 to balance the municipal services’ 2014 fund budget.
Total budgeted expenses for the municipal services fund in 2014 exceed the 2013 budgeted expenses by $1 million, largely due to more accurate accounting for municipal services, according to Tooele County Commission Chairman Bruce Clegg.
The 2014 municipal services budget also eliminated revenue for the municipal services fund from the county’s federal payment on lieu of taxes. In 2013 the county allocated $323,000 in its $3.19 million PILT payment for municipal services. The 2014 approved county budget allocates no PILT funds for municipal services.
The purpose of the current study is to independently determine the actual costs of municipal services and identify appropriate funding sources.