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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
A Brief Explanation, Contact Information, and My Letter, and One More Reason

The subject is the possible doubling of American Fork property taxes. Now write and send your letter. Then recruit some friends and neighbors to do the same.

As a follow-up to yesterday's plea for letters to American Fork elected officials, here is a brief explanation of the situation, followed by contact information for those six officials, a link to my own letter, and a thought about a potential problem with a large tax increase that I haven't heard anyone else mention yet.

Very Brief Explanation

For those who choose not to endure a lengthy explanation like yesterday's, here's a brief one: The American Fork City Council is discussing a property tax increase of up to 50 percent. Utah law is a little goofy, so a city actually must "raise" taxes a few percent each year just to break even in real, inflation-adjusted dollars. An annual "increase" of a few percent per year is not only wise but necessary; one might make the case for a few percent more in some years, depending on needs. But that gets us near a 10 percent increase, not 50 percent.

The tax increase the Council approves, if it approves one at all, may be much lower than 50 percent. But any large tax increase -- say, more than 10 percent -- seems terribly out of place when there was a large increase two years ago, when the economy is sputtering somewhat, when water bills in the city are going up substantially, and when gasoline and other energy costs are rising and also increasing the cost of everything else. The pressure on ordinary household budgets is already quite sufficient, thank you very much, without a large increase.

Beyond the possible increase, which would be imposed by a City Council vote after required public hearings, the Council is also considering putting as many four bond issues on the November ballot. The bond issues most likely won't pass in a presidential election year and after a large tax increase, but assume for a moment that they will. Combine them with a 50 percent tax increase, and property taxes in the city will roughly double in a single year.

I am encouraging all my readers to write to the Mayor and City Council, to urge them to make some hard decisions about priorities and timing, and to limit any increase to the necessary three-to-five percent (the illusory increase that only breaks even), or at least to ten percent. I'm also asking my readers to enlist the help of their friends and neighbors in the same campaign. We need to start persuading them now, not wait for a mandatory hearing that will come later.

For more discussion and explanation, as well as a sample letter and some tips for writing effective letters of this sort, see yesterday's post.

Note that this increase is on the agenda for Thursday's work session, so it may also be on the agenda for the regular Council meeting next Tuesday evening. It would be good if our elected officials had some letters to think about before the work session, but it's not too late if it's before next Tuesday evening's session.

Contacting American Fork City Councilors

Deliver: The easy way is to make six copies of the same letter, deliver them to the City Administration Building at 51 East Main during office hours, and ask the friendly ladies at the front desk to put a copy in the mayor's box and each city councilor's box. They'll do it. Be professional and don't ask them to make the copies for you, unless you intend to pay for them.

Snail Mail: Send your letter to each of the following, either at 51 East Main St, American Fork, UT  84003, or at their home addresses (most of which are easily obtained on the Web):

Mayor Heber Thompson
848 North 500 East
American Fork, UT  84003

Councilman Dale Gunther
856 East 700 North
American Fork, UT  84003

Councilmember Sherry Kramer
(use City address above)

Councilman Shirl LeBaron
232 West 1250 North
American Fork, UT  84003

Councilmember Heidi Rodeback
103 North 200 West
American Fork, UT  84003

Councilman Rick Storrs
124 West 400 South
American Fork, UT  84003

E-Mail: The City web site has additional contact information for Mayor Thompson and members of the City Council, including e-mail addresses. Both pages also have links to forms you can use at the web site to send an official a message. Much as I use and enjoy e-mail, however, I recommend writing and sending a traditional letter for greater impact this time.

My Letter

My own letter is in a separate post, here. You will see that I violated my own one-page principle; I fear that will surprise no one. It is clear and logical, stays on subject, and is only a page and a half long, so I hope it will keep my six intended readers reading to the end.

The Political Danger

To my mind, there is a serious political risk in a large tax increase right now, not just an economic problem. Here is an excerpt from my letter:

My political concern is actually greater. I believe there is considerable risk that, if there is a large tax increase this year, the current excellent Council will be succeeded in the next two elections by a decidedly inferior council dominated by the anti-tax radicals with which Utah abounds. They will not raise taxes at all for any reason, including to keep up with inflation, and they will therefore (among other errors) dig us into a deep fiscal hole very much like the one this Council inherited. Such an outcome would be very bad for city residents and their government.

That's all for now. Stay tuned.

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