Crowd blasts planned Kaysville tax increase

Wednesday , August 13, 2014 - 2:58 PM

KAYSVILLE — “End run,“ “public trust“ and “surprise“ were just some of the comments residents hurled at the Kaysville City Council at Tuesday’s 2 ½-hour hearing on a proposed tax increase.

In a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 people, resident after resident stepped to the lectern, the majority expressing their displeasure with city leaders and their proposed 99.6 percent property tax hike, nearly half of which is to pay for the construction of a police station residents had voted down.

The tax hike, if approved, will result in the average homeowner paying an additional $143 a year in property taxes to the city. The revenues will be used to fund the construction of the police station, add public safety staff and to offset those power fund revenues city officials had been using to pay for personnel.

The council will decide the matter at a 6 p.m. work session Thursday at City Hall, 23 E. Center St. At that meeting, in which the city’s proposed 2014-15 fiscal year budget will be discussed, no public comment will be taken, officials said.

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But while city leaders consider the tax increase, many of their constituents are resigned to the fact that a portion of the increase will be adopted by city leaders, since the $5.5 million police station is already under construction and needs to be paid for.

”Don’t surprise us any more,“ Kaysville resident Sid Williams told the council Tuesday. Williams said he had voted against the construction of the police station in 2010, only to be surprised to find it was still being built.

In 2010, Kaysville voters by a 56 to 44 percent margin defeated the city’s proposal to build a $4.8 million police station using general obligation bonds.

”I can’t believe you guys went around the citizens,“ former Kaysville resident Richard Lenz said of the council’s decision to build the police station despite the public vote.

Lynn Galbraith said he is concerned about the “drift“ of city leaders, and that they decided to do an “end run“ around the citizenry when it came to building the police station. “I don’t call that honesty. Start being a more representative government and you will become more respected,“ he said.

”I would think if we can adjust our (personal) budget, you could do the same,“ Carole Walker told the council.

Other residents claimed the additional tax burden the city was placing them under was going to affect their food budgets, and that this wasn’t the best year for city leaders to be building police stations, adding staff and giving pay increases to staff already onboard.

Resident David Wright said he is more concerned about the process the council has followed in making its proposal than the taxation involved.

“I am interested in the public trust. That is something that you are going to have to earn,“ Wright told the council.

And then there was 91-year-old Spencer Little, who took jabs at city officials, calling attention to the handful of uniformed Kaysville police officers who attended the hearing, lining one of the walls of the council chambers.

”Who’s out on the street?“ Little asked, waving his cane in their direction. ”I don’t know if they are here to throw me in jail or what,“ Little said, before calling out the council for, in his words, spending like a kid with a credit card in a candy store.

After a third resident pointed out the number of uniformed police officers present at the hearing, Mayor Steve Hiatt explained to the crowd that the city did have police coverage on the streets during the hearing, and that the officers attending the hearing were there on their own time.

”My blood is boiling. These officers don’t have a right to speak?“ Police Chief Sol Oberg told those in attendance at the hearing.

Oberg said he is offended by residents who expressed to city leaders through email that his officers should not have the opportunity to address the council at the hearing, when in fact what the city pays him and his 22 other officers to do is to defend a constitution that allows for those freedoms.

With the exception of Oberg, no other Kaysville police officers spoke at the hearing.

Not everyone who attended the Tuesday hearing spoke in opposition to the property tax increase.

John McCleary said he supports the construction of the police station, and if cuts have to be made to the budget, the council should look at cutting city activities like the Fourth of July fireworks before cutting public safety.

”I have long thought that we have needed more firemen,“ Kaysville resident Dale Gibson said. Part of the proposed property tax increase would be used to add two firefighters to the city’s staff.

“I appreciate the courage (of the council), but it makes it politically difficult,“ Kaysville resident Mike Ostermiller said. ”We are not spending money here that doesn’t need to be spent.“

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

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