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.

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 bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

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