David Rodeback's Blog
Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Friday, July 18, 2008
American Fork Tax Increase Update
14 percent is better than 50 percent, and 34 percent is better than 100 percent. And we may all have to live without two meals at Del Taco.
Yesterday afternoon's American Fork City Council work session introduced some sanity into the proposal the Council will present for public hearings and then eventually put to a vote. You'll have to decide for yourself whether it was enough sanity.
Here are the highlights. In offering them, I am relying on Caleb Warnock's article in today's Daily Herald and some quick conversation last evening with a City official. If I learn that any of this is erroneous, I'll correct it ASAP.
Proposed Tax Increase
The possible 50 percent increase, of which the City advised the County earlier this month, and which City officials plausibly deny was likely to happen, is now proposed at about 14 percent. Remember that only 10 percent of that, give or take, is really increase; the rest is breaking even, because of the perverse way Utah law calculates property tax rates.
The possible bond issues that might have raised taxes approximately as much again, resulting in the doubling of City property taxes (when combined with that theoretical 50 percent increase), got some serious trimming, too.
Each bond issue on the ballot will be a separate item, requiring a separate vote.
Put Them Together . . .
I don't yet have all the numbers I'd like to have, but here's how it looks right now. If the voters pass all of the bond issues, which I think very unlikely, and if the City Council gives us the proposed 14 percent tax increase next week, the total property tax increase will be about 33 percent. That still strikes me as excessive, but at least most of it would be increases the voters directly inflicted on themselves by approving bond issues. And it's a lot better than the worst-case scenario from the Council's earlier work session, a 100 percent increase.
What To Do Next
There's still time to write to the Mayor and Council, talk to them, or e-mail them and tell them what you think. You might try thanking them for trimming their proposals substantially, then tell them whether you think they trimmed them far enough, and how their vote on the tax increase might affect your future decisions in the voting booth.
In any case, you should direct your comments now to the 14 percent increase and the revised bond proposals, not to the worst-case scenario of 50 percent plus 50 percent.
Currently, there is no related item on Tuesday evening's agenda. (I link to the index page, not the agenda itself, because I don't want a link leading directly to the original, if a revised agenda is issued.) I mistakenly believed there would be something Tuesday.
Anytime an item is not on the agenda, it's fair game for the public comment period near the beginning of the meeting, where you get two minutes to tell the Council what you're thinking. That would be an excellent thing to do. Stick to the time limit, and don't try to interrogate the Council or the Mayor or expect a dialog; just speak your mind. I don't see why the Council shouldn't hear about this issue every time they meet in a regular session, until it actually comes to a vote. (When it's on the agenda, discussion comes later and is out of order for the public comment period.)
Then watch for the required public hearings and attend at least one of them. Speak your mind -- clearly, calmly, and concisely -- or just listen and watch things unfold, if you don't wish to speak. It can be instructive and motivating.
Eventually, there will be a vote by the Council. In theory, they could do some more trimming between the hearings and the vote. With the proper encouragement, perhaps they will. In any case, you could speak your mind in that meeting, too.
Bear in mind as you do all this that we really need an annual increase of a few percent (not 14 percent!) just to break even, because of the silly way Utah calculates property tax rates.
Miscellaneous Parting Thoughts
In no particular order:
More when there is more.
Heidi Rodeback comments (7/18/08):
To be fair to Council Member Kramer, it should be noted that she posted the cost of two meals against one of the smaller bonds -- either that for the cemetery or that for Art Dye. Either of those would cost taxpayers approximately $15 per year (both would cost $30). I did not hear her suggest that residents could absorb the entire package by foregoing those two meals.
Copyright 2008 by David Rodeback.