First: Incorporation will result in higher taxes.
The most optimistic projections find that incorporation will result in higher taxes immediately. The costs of new city administration, staff, equipment, and office space are substantial and will fall on residents of Stansbury Park as new taxes. All of the basic functions of any municipal organization — accounting, human resource management, legal services, engineering and planning — will be required in a city government, either with internal staff or through contracted professional services.
Successful municipalities of the size that a Stansbury City would be have distinctly different characteristics from our community. A review of Utah cities of similar size shows that these cities are either regional centers of commerce and government — Richfield and Vernal, or cities of long standing that are isolated with no other real option. These city budgets include significantly higher expenses for roads, police and fire services, recreation, planning and zoning, and other services. These cities carry the financial load of workforces up to 100 employees. Are you prepared to pay?
Second: Incorporation will result in declining services.
Some recently incorporated areas have found maintaining previously high-quality services impossible. The citizens of the newly incorporated Cottonwood Heights found the city was unable to provide the basic service of snow removal. After their failed first winter, the city contracted for these services and the result was even worse. Disenchanted citizens who initially supported incorporation have begun a movement now to reverse their decision having seen the consequences.
We can make simple comparisons. Would you rather have our well-maintained streets or the crumbling streets in Grantsville City? Do you want to keep our well-run and efficient service districts, or build a government bureaucracy like Salt Lake City? Do you want your taxes to go for new administration and city buildings? Are we ready to fund the administration of city courts and judges, and all the other functions that must accompany a new municipal government? Incorporation will take your dollars away from services and use them to create a new and unnecessary layer of government.
Three: Incorporation will lower our quality of life.
Cities find themselves in a constant competition to gain and keep revenue. Costs for government inevitably increase, and municipal governments are always searching for new sources of revenue. In many of Utah’s smaller cities, fines, fees and forfeitures account for up to half of the municipal budget. Last year, the Utah Legislature found this to be such a great problem that it passed a statutory cap — fines may make up no more than 50 percent of a city’s budget. So much for limits. When a city relies on fines for revenue, as they inevitably do, administration and public safety have no choice but to fill the quotas.
Another insidious problem arises from the intense and often sleazy competition for retail business. Cities are forced to the lowest common denominator, welcoming businesses like payday lenders and smoke shops. Even when a municipality can attract more reputable commerce, a deal usually results in huge tax giveaways and rebates, leaving residents holding the bag as outsiders walk away with the profits.
When you moved here, you were attracted by the quality of life we enjoy. Moving our resources from parks to administration, from greenbelt to judges, from recreation to accounting, will lower the quality of life for which you came.
Whatever the outcome next month, please don’t let disagreements between neighbors and friends turn into ugly fights on social media, legal disputes in city courts and agenda items for protracted arguments in city council meetings. We can remain friends.
Please make the reasoned choice and vote no on incorporation.
Larry Shumway is a Stansbury Park resident.