Stansbury residents have an important election decision to make, and it’s not the Presidential vote. Rather, it is far more local. We must decide whether to incorporate, or remain under the control of Tooele County.
I am firmly in the pro-incorporation camp. There are a number of reasons for that, but the most important is that incorporation will allow Stansbury residents, who have a vested interest in our community, to decide the important issues we face.
However, before addressing local control, let me first touch upon the financial aspects of incorporation. Those opposed to incorporation say that incorporation will cost us more. They cannot support that contention with facts. The independent feasibility study certainly suggests we should incorporate, and that we will be financially better off in just a few short years. However, in truth, whether it will cost more or less, depends upon a host of variables that are currently unknown.
Some costs depend upon who we elect as leaders of the new city, and what policy decisions our residents ask them to make. If we want a new city hall and other amenities, then that is going to cost money. But if we want the new city to take it slow while we get our feet under us — an approach I personally favor — then we very well may be more cost effective in delivering services than our friends at the county.
The answer also depends upon what our county leaders will do going forward. In 2012, the county increased general property taxes by approximately 66 percent. In 2014, the county imposed a municipal services tax upon all non-incorporated areas, and since that time has been shifting federal payment in lieu of taxes monies to the general fund even though most Utah counties use PILT funds to pay for municipal services. And this year, of course, the county imposed a new health care tax on all of us, and recently announced it also wants to raise the recently imposed MST another nine percent.
I believe if we stay unincorporated we will continue to experience what we have experienced the last few years — a continued reliance upon Stansbury to make up county funding shortfalls. But again, it depends upon what future county leaders may or may not do.
Which finally brings me to local control. Perhaps I am biased from my prior service on a city council, but I believe the city governance form is superior to our current system.
One need not have been a resident for too many years to recall some of the questionable decisions that have been made by county leadership, both in Stansbury and county-wide. The gravel pit dispute in Stockton is just the latest in a long-line of eyebrow-raisers. And even if you generally support the county’s actions, county leadership is now, and has always been, made up of people who do not live in Stansbury. Not only do the commissioners have an entire county to run, but they cannot possibly have the same understanding as we of the special issues that face our community.
If we incorporate, then decisions on such important matters as zoning, taxes and economic development will be made by Stansbury residents who have a vested and personal stake in our community. These are the people we worship with, recreate with, and see on a daily basis. If they raise our taxes then they also raise their own. And I frankly trust them more than I do those at the county to make the best choices for us going forward. That is why I will be voting “yes” to Stansbury Park incorporation on Nov. 8.
Michael R. Johnson is a resident of Stansbury Park.