The fifth and final opportunity to review a draft financial study of Tooele County’s municipal services fund will be Thursday night in Lake Point.
In four previous town hall meetings across the county, officials from Zions Bank Public Finance reported that they had found municipal service expenses beyond the $6.3 million included in the county’s 2014 budget.
Those expenses the Tooele County Commissioners have used to justify a proposed $1.5 million tax increase on property in unincorporated areas.
If adopted, the new tax will raise the property tax bill for a residence in unincorporated Tooele County by $41.36 per $100,000 of assessed value. The property tax on businesses and non-residential property in unincorporated Tooele County, not included in the greenbelt program, would go up by $75.20 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Residents of unincorporated areas of the county have turned out at meetings in Rush Valley, Stockton, at Deseret Peak Complex, and Stansbury Park to question the study’s method of allocating costs and the county commissions’ decision to withdraw federal payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) revenue for the municipal services fund.
State law allows counties to provide municipal-like services to areas outside the limits of cities and towns without providing the same services to cities and towns.
The Zions Bank study identifies, using state code definitions, municipal-like services provided by the county to unincorporated areas, such as law enforcement, animal control, dispatch, fire suppression, roads, economic development, weed control, planning and zoning, building inspection, and attorney costs.
State law also allows the municipal services fund to be charged for indirect administrative costs of human resources, information technology, auditor, clerk, treasurer, recorder and surveyor and county commission support.
Zions Bank staff reviewed dispatch reports, interviewed department heads and staff, and examined other financial and budget records to determine a proposed percentage of each department’s budget that should be charged to the municipal services fund.
At an April 30 town hall meeting at the Stansbury Park Clubhouse, Zions Bank officials reported they had identified $6.3 million in municipal services expenses.
That number is down over $600,000 from initial expenses reported at the first town hall meeting held April 17 in Rush Valley, but exceeds the 2014 budget for the municipal services fund by $20,000.
The reduction in expenses came from subtracting expenses for roads that go to recreational areas along with major collector roads from the municipal fund budget. It also resulted from reallocating some benefits for retired employees that were charged to the municipal services fund to the general fund, and putting the majority of wildland fire suppression expenses into the general fund.
Each adjustment of direct expenses is accompanied by a corresponding decrease in indirect expenses, according to Tenille Tingey, financial analyst with Zions Bank Public Finance.
Once the total expenses for municipal services are accurately determined, the county commission must determine how to fund the expenses.
State law does not allow the county to use countywide general property tax dollars to pay for municipal services. The municipal services fund may receive revenue from fees, charges for services and federal dollars, according to state law.
The 2014 county budget reversed a long time tradition and withdrew federal PILT fund revenue from the municipal services fund.
The draft of the Zions Bank Public Finance study of Tooele County’s municipal services fund contains a proposal to allocate 25 percent of PILT money to the municipal services fund, starting in 2015.
A 25 percent allocation of the anticipated 2014 PILT payment of $3.1 million, would add $775,000 of revenue to the municipal services fund.
The public’s last chance to review the latest draft of Zions Bank’s work will be 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lake Point Fire Station, 1528 Sunset Road.
The final draft of the Zions Bank study is due around a week after the last town hall meeting on May 15. The certified tax rate must be adopted in June, and a Truth In Taxation hearing for the new municipal services tax will be held in July, according to Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne.
“The county commission may yet adopt, amend, or outright abandon the proposed municipal services tax based on the final draft of the Zions report,” Milne said recently.