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Salt Lake County poised to adopt tax hike — but at a slightly lower rate

Downtown Salt Lake City is seen during a winter storm on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019.

Downtown Salt Lake City is seen during a winter storm on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

County Council expected to sign off on a slightly lower tax hike after finding $6.5 million in cuts

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County leaders are poised to raise property taxes — but at a slightly lower rate after County Council Republicans spearheaded slashes to bits and pieces of the county’s roughly $1.5 billion budget.

The County Council, after hours of budget discussions last month, agreed to cuts totaling nearly $6.5 million, which — if approved — will lower the proposed property tax hike from 8.72% to about 7.88%. That rate would lower the amount of additional money the tax hike would bring in each year from about $17.7 million to about $15.95 million.

After a public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday night, the council is expected to finalize the budget with the cuts — and the tax hike — after Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson earlier this fall proposed what she called a “no frills” budget that raised taxes to address “huge structural problems.”

Because the new tax rate is lower than what was previously proposed and noticed to Salt Lake County residents, Tuesday’s public hearing is the last one required under state law before the County Council can legally adopt the new tax rate.

For years, the county’s budget has become increasingly strained as county purchasing power eroded due to inflation. Over time, even though the county’s population has been growing, revenues have been flattening as property tax rates have declined because state statute doesn’t allow tax rates to adjust for inflation, according to county fiscal staff.

That, combined with big-ticket costs expected in 2020 including next year’s presidential election and a state-mandated court, is why Wilson said she felt she had “no choice” but to propose the tax hike to avoid facility shutdowns or layoffs.

Though Wilson said her team cut all “waste” in her budget proposal, County Council Republicans scoured the budget and found about $6.5 million in one-time and ongoing funds to slash, making technical shifts from certain funds while also making mostly minor cuts to a variety of departments and programs.

Those cuts include $500,000 from the county Office of Data and Innovation, about $2.4 million in tourism dollars from equestrian park capital projects, about $328,800 for a new sergeant and vehicle and a K9 deputy and vehicle from the Sheriff’s Office, about $154,000 from one position in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, about $89,000 for a commercial appraiser, $216,000 for an emergency management pilot program, about $118,800 from travel expenditures, and more.

Darrin Casper, the county’s chief financial officer, credited the County Council for a “very good budget process” that found efficiencies while also not threatening the “structural balance” the tax hike was meant to strike.

“I’m very pleased with the overall process,” he told the Deseret News on Monday. “I think everybody did a good job.” …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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