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Monday, August 4, 2008
Tomorrow's Tax Hearing in American Fork: The Essentials

Here is my brief (at least brief for me) summary of the things you'll want to know before attending tomorrow evening's hearing on the proposed property tax increase in American Fork.

I almost regret the almost-all-tax-increase, almost-all-the-time tenor of this little blog lately. Almost. But when the facts keep evolving -- that feels like a euphemism -- they keep requiring further attention here. I'm fairly confident in the latest version of the numbers, as they were explained to me on Saturday. What I propose to do today is quickly review the essentials, the things you'll want to know before you show up at tomorrow evening's "Truth-in-Taxation" hearing. So here are the bullet points . . .

  • The hearing is at 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at the historic City Hall, 31 N. Church Street, in American Fork. I'll be surprised if it lasts less than two hours, but you never know.
  • It's only a hearing. The Mayor and Council may or may not present some information at the beginning, but their principal task will be to listen to people who came to comment on the tax increase. The officials are not obligated to answer questions, just to listen. And they certainly are not obligated to vote next week the way the majority of people who speak at the hearing this week want them to.
  • The vote itself is scheduled for the regular City Council meeting next Tuesday, August 12, at 7:30 p.m. (That's when the meeting starts, not when they get to the vote on the tax increase.)
  • A lot of folks there will be incensed at the proposed 62.76 percent tax increase (which we lately learned was really a budget increase), or the proposed 46 percent tax increase (which was never really intended), if they read a little more carefully. But you will be better informed than that. You will know that the proposed tax increase is 14 percent, and the proposed budget increase is about 27 percent. The only number that matters tomorrow night is the 14 percent. A hearing about the 27 percent is next Tuesday.
  • You will also know that the 14 percent increase is not over last year's tax rate. It is over the rate the County calculated would produce the same number of dollars this year as last year, from the same properties that were taxed last year. So the starting point for the proposed increase is actually lower than last year's rate. (This little misadventure is called the Certified Tax Rate.) Your actual tax bill could go up more or less than 14 percent, depending on how your assessed property value has changed in relation to all the other properties in the city.
  • You will also know that, under Utah law, if a city doesn't impose an increase of a few percent every year, so that the number of dollars keeps up with inflation, it effectively has a tax cut every year -- a consequence that compounds rather badly over several years.
  • The proposed increase is in the City's portion of your property tax, not your overall property tax. If my own tax bill is like yours, about two-thirds of yours goes to the Alpine School District, and only 25 to 30 percent goes to American Fork City.
  • The hearing is not your last chance to be heard on the issue; you have another week to write, call, or e-mail the Mayor and especially the City Council.

I plan to be at the hearing, but I don't plan to speak, unless the temptation is irresistible. You, the Mayor, and the City Council already know what I think. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

But do us all a favor, okay? Tell anyone you know who plans to go, and anyone you happen to chat with before the hearing, that the real proposal is 14 percent. It would be good for people to save their energy and enthusiasm for the actual proposal, not squander it on something that was never going to happen, anyway, such as 62.76 or 46 percent increases.

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