My recent property tax vote

Who is the villain?

In this world (and especially politics) we tend to vilify each other when we don’t agree. I will tell you that there is not a “bad guy” in this scenario. The Finance Team at Bountiful city gave their professional recommendations. My colleagues on the City Council and the Mayor are good, smart people. Reasonable people come to different conclusions. I have been criticized for my “no” vote but I voted my conscience and will defend each Council member’s right to do the same.

Why I voted no.

I committed that I wouldn’t vote to raise property taxes any more than is needed. Part of the proposed tax increase was to pay for 2 additional Parks employees and an IT employee. I believe Bountiful city has a legitimate need for those employees. We have recently added parks with many acres that need care and want to ensure that our IT Dept remains viable and secure. I believe we could pay for the proposed employees at an 11.25% increase plus 3.75% to account for some general inflationary adjustment for a total 15% tax increase. The cost for materials and labor has gone up in recent years so a small adjustment to help keep up with inflation seems reasonable. I would support a 15% increase because I felt those were true needs.

When it comes to raising taxes for the City’s reserve funds, I did not feel it was a need. There is no doubt that having adequate savings on hand saves Bountiful money. We can avoid bonding issuance and interest fees if we pay in cash which benefits all Bountiful residents. The Council was referencing a spreadsheet where our Capital Projects / Savings fund balance was projected out for future years. 8M revenue from a bond is predicted to take Bountiful’s Reserve funds up to 25M over the next two years, then it is projected to start dropping. The best guess for Savings fund levels in future years is less accurate the further out we project. I firmly believe we should only tax residents based on City needs now and consider those needs on an annual basis as opposed to taxing residents based on what might be needed in the future. There may be emergencies that arise where Bountiful would need to raise taxes and I’m sure residents would be understanding in that situation. It would be a response to a true need. In considering the health of our Capital Projects /Savings fund, projected levels of funds depends on variables including spending which the Council has some control over (if we will).

Timeline

May 11 City Council meeting, I voted to consider adoption of the tentative budget. There was no proposed tax increase included in the tentative budget at this point.

June 8  City Council work session, I said I would prefer a 15% increase (as opposed to a 37% increase this year) but I said I would support the Council’s recommendation to move forward. I reserve the right to change my mind and knew I was still weighing pros and cons for the tax increase as well as wanting to hear from the public before making a final decision. No formal vote was made that night. Meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvB1QcjA8Ls

June 22 City Council meeting, I voted to adopt the tentative budget (which now included a proposed tax increase) the tax increase itself was not voted on until Aug 22. I voted in favor of holding the Truth in Taxation hearing because I wanted to consider the merits of a property tax and to hear from the public.  Meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lCo1gRpPoU

Aug 9 City Council work session. I requested this work session to discuss Bountiful City’s Capital Projects / Savings fund minimum balance policy. We discussed how having adequate savings/liquidity allows our city to remain a “pay as you go” entity. That night, we were told there was 8M from bond money that would be coming to the city that had not been shown on the previous projections. This made a big difference for me. We were looking for just under 1M as a property tax increase, but we had just found 8M more than what was previously shown. This revelation made me hopeful we wouldn’t need a tax increase. Meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NemQN8jse_I

Aug 11 Truth in Taxation meeting. I discussed the reasons I would support a 15% increase but didn’t feel like more was a true need. The other Councilmembers stated their positions. I asked the others to consider a lesser amount. After the motion was made for a 37% tax increase, I voted against it and stated my reasons. The tax increase passed 4-1   Meeting can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za-0TiLABXc

I’m happy to discuss the property tax increase vote. Feel free to call or text me at 801-897-3345