WEST HAVEN — For the first time in the young city’s history, West Haven real estate owners may have to pay municipal property taxes.
City leaders are considering instituting a property tax for the first time in the proposed 2018-2019 budget, in part to help offset the rising costs of contracting with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services. The proposed tax on a $354,000 home, the average in West Haven, would go from zero to $153.93 per the plan — the focus of a pair of upcoming planned town hall meetings and a truth-in-taxation hearing — and, overall, generate around $800,000. The average cost to a business would go from zero to $279.88.
“The diversification of revenue streams is a big part of it,” said Mayor Sharon Bolos. Thirteen of Weber County’s 15 cities assess property taxes and if West Haven joins the group, Marriott-Slaterville would remain as the lone property tax holdout in the county.
As is, West Haven, Weber County’s fastest-growing city dating to 2010, relies heavily on sales tax revenue and money from new building permits and other licenses. But it’s becoming increasingly tough to cover the growing needs of the city, established in 1991, according to Bolos. An estimated 13,532 people lived in West Haven in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, up from 10,272 in 2010, which works out to 31.7 percent growth, top in the county for the period.
Though she singled out the sharp jump in the cost of paying the sheriff’s office for police protection, from around $358,000 in 2012-2013 to $1 million last year, Bolos said it’s not the only thing. Funds need to be set aside for major roads projects going forward. Plus, it’s getting increasingly tough to cover the cost of routine parks maintenance, she said, further noting calls by some in the northern part of the city for a new park.
“At the rate we’re going, that isn’t going to happen, a lot of these things aren’t going to happen,” she said. Indeed, if the city doesn’t create the new revenue stream, it may soon start operating in the red, with expenses outpacing revenue.
What’s more, if there were an economic downturn, reducing sales and new development, revenue from sales tax and building permits would take a hit. Adding property taxes to the mix helps stabilize the revenue stream.
City officials started discussing the possibility of instituting a property tax in earnest last spring when 2018-19 budget talks began. Ahead of the truth-in-taxation hearing on the new tax, required by state law, the city will host two open houses on the matter, on Aug. 10 and 13. The hearing is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 15 while the open houses will each go from 4 to 7 p.m., with all three gatherings to be held at West Haven City Hall, 4150 S. 3900 West.
Bolos said she’s received perhaps five calls on the tax proposal and understands there’s been more discussion on social media.
West Haven’s proposed 2018-19 budget calls for $8.81 million in general fund spending, down from $9.74 million in 2017-18, a dip stemming in part from reduced spending on 2550 South road improvements. Revenue falls by the same total, per the budget proposal, driven also by reduced roads funding for the 2550 South upgrade. Per the coming fiscal year spending plan, $2.5 million would come from sales and use taxes, $800,000 would come from the new property tax and $720,000 would come from license and permit fees. More would come from state funding sources, development fees and other sources.
Property tax collections for 2017-18 in the 13 Weber County cities that levied such taxes ranged from a high of $11.75 million in Ogden, the county’s largest city, to $65,371 in Uintah, according to Utah State Tax Commission figures. Using 2017 population figures, the $800,000 in property taxes to be collected if West Haven implements the tax would work out to an average cost of $59.12 per person in the city. In 2017, the per person average cost in the cities levying property taxes ranged from $157.71 in South Ogden to $21.27 in Plain City.
Bill Morris, administrator and city attorney in Marriott-Slaterville, said there’s no talk of instituting a property tax there and joining the ranks of other cities in Weber County. “We have no plans,” he said.
The cities of Ogden and South Ogden also have truth in taxation hearings planned, per proposals in each locale to boost property taxes for 2018-19 beyond state-allowed limits.