Stansbury Park residents could escape a 58 percent increase in the county portion of their property tax by becoming a municipality.
But Stansbury Park leaders that unsuccessfully tried incorporation 15 years ago are reluctant to take another try at becoming Tooele County’s third largest city.
“I don’t think anybody likes it when their taxes go up,” said Glenn Oscarson, chairman of the Stansbury Park Service Agency Board. “But the new municipal services tax may be needed to pay for our services.”
If Stansbury Park, or any other unincorporated community in the county, were to incorporate they would not be subject to the proposed municipal services tax that will add $62 per year of property tax onto a house valued at $150,000.
However, they would have to find a way to pay for essential government services that are now being provided by the county.
A feasibility study was done for a possible incorporation of Stansbury Park in 1998 in response to a petition by Stansbury Park residents.
However, the costs exceeded revenue so drastically at the time that the incorporation movement was abandoned, said Nicole Cline, who worked as the county planner at the time, and is now a planner for the University of Utah. Tooele County currently does not have a planner.
The study revealed that if Stansbury Park were to incorporate that they would have to impose the highest property tax out of all Utah municipalities to cover expenses, according to Oscarson.
“I don’t think a lot has changed since the study was done,” he said. “But it is probably worth talking about again.”
A broad tax base, including commercial property, is needed to support a city because the property tax generated by residential property does not cover the cost of essential services. New commercial growth in Stansbury Park, including Stansbury Crossing anchored by Soelberg’s Market, and strip malls at the intersection of state Route 36 and Village Boulevard, may now make incorporation viable, according to Cline.
“If the county is serious about wanting to provide services to only a rural county, then incorporating Stansbury Park would make sense because it is a very urban or suburban area,” she said. “Incorporating would give them, the Stansbury folks, more control over their community.”
Any move to incorporate Stansbury Park would have to start with the residents and property owners in the area, according to Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan.
“According to state code the incorporation process starts with a petition to the county commission from residents in the incorporating area requesting a feasibility study,” he said.
The feasibility study would take a look at the cost of providing all municipal services in the area, including water, sewer, law enforcement, fire protection, roads and public works, garbage, weeds, and government offices, according to state code.
The feasibility study also would look at current revenue generated from the area and what kind of tax rate would be needed to support government services.
Currently three service agencies in Stansbury Park collect property taxes and provide for water, sewer, recreation, greenbelt and park management. Fire protection and emergency services in Stansbury Park are provided by the North Tooele County Fire Department.
Tooele County provides road maintenance, snow removal, planning and zoning, and law enforcement in Stansbury Park.
After the initial step of a feasibility study, incorporation requires public hearings and a majority vote by the registered voters inside the boundary of the incorporating area.
The new municipal services tax is not intended to hasten the incorporation of Stansbury Park, according to Tooele County Commissioners.
“The municipal service tax is needed so we can continue to provide services that citizens in the unincorporated areas of the county need and enjoy,” said Tooele County Commission Chairman Bruce Clegg. “Incorporation is a decision that the citizens in Stansbury Park will have to make for themselves.”
“I’m not pushing Stansbury to incorporate,” said Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne. “It is their decision to make. Currently the feedback I have been getting the community is about evenly split on incorporation.”
If Stansbury Park were to incorporate, depending on the boundaries, it would be, according to the 2010 census, the third largest city in Tooele County with a population of 7,441. Grantsville’s 2010 population was 8,893 and Tooele City’s was 31,605.
Stansbury Park already is the highest total property taxed area in the county.
A $150,000 home, anywhere in Tooele County, incorporated or unincorporated, paid $180 in taxes to the county and $791 to the Tooele County School District in 2013.
In addition to countywide property taxes for Tooele County and schools, the owner of a $150,000 home in Tooele City paid an additional $208 to Tooele City. In Grantsville an additional $310 in property tax is collected, $277 for the city and $33 for the mosquito abatement district.
The owner of a $150,000 home in Stansbury Park paid an additional $339 in property tax, a combined total for the mosquito abatement district, the North Tooele County Fire District, the Stansbury Recreation Service Agency, the Stansbury Park Improvement District, and the Stansbury Park Greenbelt Service Agency.
While not ready to incorporate, Oscarson said a discussion of the idea of incorporating is relevant.
“I don’t fully embrace incorporation, but we have got to have the conversation,” he said. “You hear a lot of talk about how much it costs the county to provide us with services, but nobody ever mentions how much property tax we already pay to the county.”
He added, “We are pretty densely populated compared to other unincorporated areas of the county, so I imagine we pay a larger share of property taxes.”