Weber County tax hike proposal generates backlash: ‘Death by cuts’
OGDEN — The proposed 7.25% tax increase Weber County commissioners are considering generated opposition from the majority of speakers who addressed the officials on the issue at a public hearing Tuesday evening.
David Hansen of Liberty, for one, alluded to the spate of property taxes in recent years by a range of taxing entities. “It’s death by cuts. We’ve been hit so hard over the last couple of years by the tax increases — and it isn’t just the county. It’s all of them together,” he said.
Around 20 people spoke at the truth-in-taxation hearing, most expressing opposition to the proposed county tax hike, outlined in the preliminary 2024 Weber County budget. Commissioners took no action Tuesday, but are to formally consider the $348.59 million spending plan and proposed tax increase — one of several put forward this year and last year by a range of taxing entities — on Dec. 12.
Reed Miller of North Ogden, like another speaker, alluded to the defeat in last week’s voting of a Weber County proposal to issue up to $98 million in bonds to fund upgrades to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office facilities and jail.
That measure, if approved, would have required a property tax increase. Miller, though, took its defeat as a sign that the public doesn’t want more taxes and commissioners’ proposed increase as an affront to that sentiment. “That’s what you’re doing is going against the people by (continuing) to increase taxes,” he said.
Others called on the county to search out homeowners falsely reporting their Ogden Valley homes as their primary residences, thereby reducing the tax load on the property. Doing so and requiring them to pay their fair share of taxes would bolster revenue entering county coffers, counteracting or tempering the need for a tax hike, they argued.
Though most expressed opposition, a few expressed support for the proposal, including Kathy Gambles of South Ogden. The increase, if ultimately approved, would generate an extra $3.9 million for the county and boost taxes on a home worth $486,000, the average in the county, by $35.19 a year.
Gambles said she’s “glad that I live in Weber County and that I pay taxes in Weber County.” She’s on a tight budget but said her life would not be the same without county benefits and programming, including services provided through the Weber County Library System and tai chi classes offered through the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
Weber County Comptroller Scott Parke said county department heads have put forward $2.7 million in spending cuts, minimizing the need for an increase. Still, other forces are pushing in the other direction, he said, including inflation, which has boosted the price of county supplies and materials.
Parke also cited the expected increase in health insurance costs for county employees in 2024 of $1.4 million and the loss of some $1.2 million in revenue from the federal government coming from the lease of beds in the Weber County Jail to federal inmates. The jail is full with Weber County inmates, with no excess space to lease to other law enforcement agencies.
Finally, Parke said the county needs to boost the pay of the attorneys in the Weber County Attorney’s Office to stay competitive with other county attorney’s offices. Many have been leaving Weber County for higher-paying jobs elsewhere, he said.
Commissioners Jim Harvey and Gage Froerer alluded to the other taxing entities that have boosted taxes this year. Eight entities, including the Weber and Ogden school districts, held their own public hearings on proposed tax hikes last August and officials from all eight ultimately approved the increases.
“I hope all of you were as passionate with those truth-in-taxation hearings as you were with us tonight,” Harvey said. School districts account for the bulk of property taxes homeowners pay.
Froerer said he understands the concerns put forward while Harvey said boosting taxes isn’t easy. “For me, this isn’t an easy button. It’s not easy at all,” Harvey said.
County commissioners approved a tax hike in 2021 to bolster funding for flood control and the county’s libraries.