Without holding a promised truth in taxation hearing, the Tooele County Commission adopted a final municipal services tax rate and $1.5 million in additional property tax revenue for 2014.
County resolution 2014-06, which includes the establishment of a tax rate of .00085 for municipal services in unincorporated areas of the county, was unanimously adopted by the commission Tuesday.
The final approval of the municipal services tax rate came after five town hall meetings since February, and a public comment period during the June 3 county commission meeting.
While citizens were told during the town hall meetings that a truth in taxation hearing would be held in July prior to the adoption of the tax rate, it turns out the only formal public hearing required by Utah’s truth in taxation laws was held in December 2013. No additional public hearing was held before Tuesday night’s vote.
“I don’t think another hearing was in our plans,” said Commission Chairman Bruce Clegg. “We contracted with Zions Bank Public Finance to hold a certain amount of town hall meetings and they held them.”
However, following Zions Bank officials’ presentation of their final report at a June 3 county commission meeting, Clegg told the Transcript-Bulletin that a formal truth in taxation hearing would be scheduled for July before the commissioners voted on the adoption of the tax rate.
Clegg’s June 3 comments were consistent with similar statements made by county commissioners during the town hall meetings.
At the Stockton Town Hall meeting on April 22, Commissioner Shawn Milne said a truth in taxation hearing for the new municipal services tax would be held in July.
Milne was out of town when commissioners put together the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting and said he did not know if holding a public meeting was discussed by commissioners when the July 1 agenda was set.
A truth in taxation, or an additional public hearing, were not discussed by commissioners when planning Tuesday night’s agenda because no hearings were required and public comments had been received at the town hall meetings, Clegg said.
Even without a formal public hearing, the public did have a chance to comment on the final draft of Zions Bank’s municipal services study, which included a recommendation to adopt the new tax, at the county commission’s June 3 meeting, according to Milne.
The legal requirement for a truth in taxation hearing was met on December 3, 2013, according to Tooele County Auditor Mike Jensen.
Following a truth in taxation hearing at the December 3 meeting, the commission passed a resolution to adopt a municipal services tax with revenue up to $1.5 million.
Prior to the December 3 meeting, a notice of the meeting and hearing was sent to all taxpayers affected by the municipal services tax.
The December 3 public hearing, with the mailed notice, satisfied Utah state law and no other public hearings were required before the adoption of the final municipal services tax rate, according to a Utah State Tax Commission spokesperson.
The .00085 municipal tax rate means the owner of a home in unincorporated Tooele County will see an additional 47 cents per $1,000 dollars of assessed value on their tax bill for this year.
The owner of the average Tooele County home, with an assessed value of $154,614, will pay $72.28 for the municipal services property tax, in addition to other property taxes collected for the county, schools, cities, and special service districts.
The municipal service tax only applies to property in unincorporated areas of the county.
The municipal services tax was first proposed by the commissioners in October 2013 when they conducted their first public discussion on the 2014 budget. Two months prior, they had adopted a $2.6 million property tax increase — the first property tax increase for the county in 27 years.
In February 2014, the commissioners contracted with Zions Bank Public Finance for $16,500 to conduct an independent study to determine the actual costs of municipal services.
Zions Bank officials conducted town hall meetings in Rush Valley, Stockton, Deseret Peak, Stansbury Park and Lake Point. They recalculated their figures after each town hall meeting as a result of input from the public.
The final study presented by Zions Bank at the June 3 county commission meeting concluded that without the municipal services tax, expenses for the municipal services fund would exceed revenue by $1,585,000 in 2014.