Crowd blasts planned Kaysville tax increase

Wednesday , August 13, 2014 - 2:58 PM

BZ 081214 Kaysville Tax Hearing 03-2

David Saunders questions the Kaysville City Council Chambers about the need for a proposed tax...

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 Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.


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Kaysville council OKs 99.6 percent tax hike

Friday , August 15, 2014 - 12:58 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

KAYSVILLE — Public safety outweighed public outcry and the Kaysville City Council by a 4-to-1 vote approved Thursday night a $30 million fiscal year 2014-15 budget that includes a 99.6 percent property tax increase.

The scene at the specially scheduled council workshop, which about 25 people attended, was vastly different from the scene that played out two days earlier at City Hall, when an estimated 200 residents packed the council chambers, the large majority expressing their displeasure with the council’s proposed budget and its near triple-digit tax hike that will cost the average homeowner an additional $143 per year.

But on Thursday no public comments were taken. It was the council members’  turn to speak, many of them still recovering from the barbs residents hurled their direction Tuesday.

The tax increase will generate $1.275 million of new revenue annually for the city, City Finance Director Dean Storey said.

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The city will be spending that revenue to build a $5.5 million police station, already under construction, and hire two additional police officers and two additional firefighters, according to officials.

City officials say a portion of the tax increase is also a result of the passage of Proposition 5, which prevents the council from using power rate revenues from the city-owned electric utility for anything other than the operation of the city’s electric utility without providing public notice to the ratepayers (in this case, the residents).

In the past, power rate revenues were used to pay the salaries of some police officers and to buy undeveloped land.

The lone dissenting vote to the budget, Councilwoman Susan Lee, said there were cuts that could be made to the budget, such as employee salaries, reducing the drive time of the city’s fleet vehicles and finding more sponsors for the city’s civic activities.

Lee also questioned the need for the city to have a minimum of two police officers on duty around the clock, since the city has an interlocal agreement with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office and its sheriff deputies.

But council members, with the exception of Lee, took the time to justify the need for the public safety improvements, pointing out cuts already had been made to the budget in order for them to trim the increase to the 99.6 percent figure.

“This budget is a result of cutting,” Councilman Ron Stephens said. “I feel we have reached a pretty reasonable rate with this budget.”

Other council members agreed.

“To me, this is just barely meeting the need,” Councilman Brett Garlick said of the needs of the city that for years leaders have kicked down the road.

One of the more interesting exchanges was when Councilman Jared Taylor pointed out that if not for Proposition 5 requiring the city to pay for its own electric billing, versus having it absorbed, officials would have been able to trim the 99.6 percent property tax increase by about 13 percent.

In followup to Taylor, Garlick asked Storey what the increases for the employees salaries amounted to for the year.

Storey replied that up to about $196,000 of the budget was dedicated to salary increases, with 4 1/2 percent merit increases and 1 1/2 percent market adjustment.

“What percentage of the increase is that?” Garlick asked. “About 19 percent.”

Storey replied the salary increases had been figured into the “base budget” and therefore were not a part of the property tax increase.

The issue was then dropped.

Mayor Steve Hiatt called the budget an “honest budget,” one that was not crafted to gain political points with residents.

“Is there something in here (this budget) that can wait? I don’t think there is,” Hiatt said.

Although residents were not allowed to provide public comment, one woman who attended the meeting was openly disappointed following the council’s decision.

“They didn’t listen to a thing we said,” said 70 year-old retiree Cheryl Tarbet, who attended Tuesday’s hearing and Thursday’s workshop.

Tarbet said, based on the increased amount of taxes she will be facing this next year, she may have to go out and get a job.

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



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Group sees hike in home values meaning higher Kaysville taxes

Tuesday , August 05, 2014 - 9:28 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

KAYSVILLE — A citizens group here is concerned Kaysville city’s proposed 99.6 percent property tax increase will have even a greater negative impact on taxpayers after recent news that Davis County property assessments have increased.

The citizens group, known as Citizens for Responsible Government, is currently circulating a newsletter to members expressing concerns with the county’s projected market value hikes, referring to an article that appeared in the Standard-Examiner.

City leaders contend the tax increase they are proposing will cost the average property owner an additional $140 a year in taxes. They say the recent projected reassessed property values released by the county will have no major impact on the portion of tax revenues the city is to receive.

“We have to be careful not to intermingle the two separate issues,” Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt told the Standard-Examiner.

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The city will receive no more money based on the projected assessments released by the county assessor’s office, Hiatt said.

A truth-in-taxation hearing on the city’s proposed property tax increase -- revenue to pay for a new $5.5 million police station now under construction, additional public safety staff and Proposition 5 -- will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at Kaysville City Hall, 23 E. Center St.

Davis County property owners recently received new tax assessments, with the market values on some homes increasing as much as $130,000.

Based on the reset of county homes values, about 75 percent of all property owners experienced some sort of increase in value, and about one-fifth of the homeowners had their market value decrease, according to County Assessor Dennis Yarrington.

Some property owners are concerned the increase in market value could result in an overall higher tax rate, and say they intend to appeal their market values to the county. Tax notices are to be mailed-out in the fall.

Members of the citizens group are concerned that any increase adopted by the city or county will have an overall impact on taxpayer’s bottom line.

But prior to residents receiving the adjusted reassessments, Hiatt said, council members already were conscious of any increases city residents might have to pay.

“There is empathy (for the taxpayers) without the reassessment,” Hiatt said.

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

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Group: Ban non-Kaysville residents from tax hearing

Wednesday , July 16, 2014 - 6:00 PM

Standard-Examiner staff

KAYSVILLE — Non-residents shouldn’t be weighing in on Kaysville City’s proposed 102 percent property tax hike at the Aug. 12 Truth-in-Taxation hearing, says a leader of a concerned citizens group.

“It is unfair for these people to have a voice,” Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government chairman Orwin Draney told the city council Tuesday.

At a June budget hearing, many of those who spoke in favor of the tax increase - amounting to about $140 more a year for the average homeowner - were not residents of the city, including two police officers.

“The budget and the property tax increase being proposed will affect the forcible taking of money from the pockets of Kaysville citizens only,” Draney said.

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But city leaders contend there are those who do not live in the city, such as business owners, employees or landlords, who may be negatively impacted one way or the other on the proposed tax increase and those people need to be heard.

“I think it is important for us to hear from anybody who wants to talk to us,” Councilman Brett Garlick said.

The city council is proposing a 102 percent property tax hike to pay for the construction of a $5.5 million police station and to add two firefighters and two police officers.

The proposed tax increase does impact police officers where it addresses public safety, Councilman Mark Johnson said. “You can’t just dismiss a police officer.”

Councilwoman Susan Lee, who to date has been the lone dissenting voice on the council openly opposing the proposed property tax hike, said she believes the council during the Truth in Taxation hearing could require those addressing the council to share their name, as well as where they live, so city leaders can fairly weigh their comments.

The Truth in Taxation hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m., Aug. 12, at  City Hall, 23 E. Center St. The council will then hold a special 6 p.m. Aug. 14 meeting to take official action on the tax hike.

Mayor Steve Hiatt said it would seem disingenuous to those offering public comment at the Aug. 12 meeting if the council were not to take a few days to consider and review the comments made before taking their vote.

But just how much wiggle room city leaders have in their proposed budget is uncertain.

With construction already under way on the police station, that cost being about 45 percent of the proposed tax increase in balancing the budget, it may be difficult for the council to eliminate a tax increase altogether unless another revenue source is found to address the annual bond debt for the police station.

Many of the residents who addressed the council at a June budget meeting spoke of how frustrated they were that as residents they voted down at the polls the construction of the police station based on its cost, and then the council turned around and approved its construction.

Of the seven people who spoke in favor of the property tax increase during the June hearing, three were not residents of the city, including two police officers, Draney said.

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



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