WEST HAVEN — After a strong outcry from the public against implementation of a municipal property tax, the West Haven City Council on Wednesday rejected the city’s proposed 2019 budget containing the new tax.
Now, city officials will have to regroup and cut $800,000 from West Haven’s proposed $8.81 million spending plan, the portion of the total budget that was to have come from the new property tax.
City leaders had proposed instituting a property tax for the first time in part because of rising costs from contracting with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement protection. After a public hearing during which most strongly denounced the possibility of the new tax, though, the council voted 5-0 against the budget.
Anytime government changes taxes, “they never go down, they always go up,” said Jack Williams, one of 20 who addressed the council. Around 110 people attended the meeting, with many in the audience applauding after the tax critics spoke.
City officials have until Aug. 23 to adopt a spending plan for fiscal year 2019 and they scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 22 to consider a revamped budget, presumably totaling $8.01 million, the original minus the $800,000 that would have come from the property tax.
Wednesday’s action notwithstanding, the debate over implementation of a property tax in the city doesn’t necessarily go away. West Haven and Marriott-Slaterville are alone among Weber County’s 15 cities to not have a property tax.
“I think it would be appropriate to pause. Just look at it,” said Councilman Rob Vanderwood. “This will happen. It might be better to do it at a later date.”
City officials, he said, may have to permit more higher-density housing and commercial development to generate alternative funding that precludes or at least tempers the need for a property tax.
At the same time, Councilwoman Stephanie Carlson said reliance on sales tax revenue — the biggest funding source in the city’s budget — is not sustainable over the long haul, particularly if there’s an economic downturn, hurting retail.
“There’s going to be a point in time where a property tax is needed,” before the city reaches a crisis situation, said Councilwoman Lacy Richards.
Most of those speaking out against the tax hike instead beseeched council members to trim city spending. The new city property tax on a $354,000 home, the average in West Haven, would have gone from zero to $153.93 per the proposal, if it were approved.