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West Valley City Journal

Property tax increase puts additional police patrols in city

Aug 31, 2017 06:45PM ● By Jana Klopsch

A chart showing the general fund balance for West Valley City. The city council approved property tax increase partly to put additional police patrols in the city. (West Valley City)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

West Valley City Council voted 5-1 to approve a 5.23 percent raise in property taxes for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Mayor Ron Bigelow was the dissenting vote. He also voted against a property tax increase last year. 

City Finance Director Jim Welch said they felt “this is an appropriate budget to use the city’s finite resources.”

Two factors played roles in the tax increase, according to city officials. One being a judgment levy that covers tax revenue shortages. Those shortages happen when companies successfully appeal changes to their property values that reduces their taxes. 

City Manager Wayne Pyle said the city worked hard to absorb those costs before receiving notice in June that the levy would be $2.7 million, approximately $800,000 more than anticipated. 

“We usually have a judgement levy assessment year to year, but it’s typically in the neighborhood of $80,000 to $100,000, not $2.7 million so that was something of a surprise,” Pyle said. 

Finance Director Jim Welch said the city found resources and ways to adjust costs and cover all but $848,000 of the $2.7 million. 

“It’s not ongoing and will go away next year,” Welch said of the monetary amount, adding it would come out to about $13 a month per household to make up that whole this year.  

The second factor is an additional $1 million to finance a programmatic increase for the police department. It will provide six new police officers, equipment and support services. 

“This represents a way to provide services and actually an increase in services for the police department,” Welch said. 

In Police Chief Lee Russo’s budget proposal presentation to the city council in July, he said the additional officers would allow for four new business patrols in addition to the eight geographically dispersed patrol beats the city currently has operated for 20 years. Those four business patrols would operate along Redwood Road, 3500 South and 5600 West. 

“Not deterring crime in those areas will lead to closures in businesses and blighted properties,” he said. 

A few West Valley residents spoke during the city council meeting voicing their support in assisting the police department. 

“I am totally for getting money for the police department and fire department,” said Chesterfield resident Robert Erekson. “Thirteen dollars doesn’t sound too bad.” 

Resident Necia Christensen said people shouldn’t always lump tax increases with West Valley City since there are others, like Granite School District, who are raising their taxes as well. 

“West Valley City is asking for a very small amount,” she said.  

Not every resident was accepting of the tax increase with a few saying they don’t see where those services are going. 

Resident Marie Galloway said she was representing a five-block area near 5700 West and 3600 South where the nearby Mountain View Corridor construction has created a blighted area near her home and didn’t feel her taxes should be raised.

Resident Steve Acey said he’s on a fixed income of social security that doesn’t receive additional governmental increases when taxes go up. 

“That means I have to give something up in my budget to pay this additional tax,” Acey said. “Those on a fixed income have to come with extra money without extra income.”

Since the 5-1 approval vote on Aug. 8, tensions have raised between the mayor and some city council members. 

Bigelow took to Facebook the following day to post his disappointment at the vote where he wrote, “It seems that the only answer most elected officials have for any issue, problem or perceived need is to raise taxes. That is the easy answer. The right answer is to spend on the basic services that government should provide and reduce spending on less essential expenditures.” 

He later clarified that post was not directed at any members on the city council, but meant as a general comment on all elected officials. This came after some councilmembers expressed frustration at Bigelow’s social media post and not voicing his opinion prior to the vote

Welch said in his presentation to those in attendance at the city council meeting that the process began in December 2016 before meeting with the city council to discuss their priorities. Through the first quarter of the year, the city council hears presentations from the head of each department as they lay out their plans and needs. 

“We’re like any other sort of business, we’re subject to the pressures from ongoing increasing costs of services due to inflation, due to the economy. This year, we projected modest growth as the economy has been slowly growing,” he said. 

Welch said sales tax continues to grow annually on average of 2 percent with sales tax making up a third of the city’s revenue. Other revenues include 38 percent in property taxes with the final 29 percent comes from other items such as service fees, licenses and permits.

While some cities may have an unbalanced revenue picture with large chunks coming from sales tax, Welch said WVC’s remains even. 

“We’ve always felt that our distribution of revenues—kind of a third, a third, a third—makes us more stable,” Welch said. 

Of the almost $79 million budget, about 46 percent will go towards public safety with the remainder mostly going towards city operations. 

A property tax calculator is available on the city’s website where you can enter the appraised value of a home and it will show an estimated property tax. For example, on a $200,000 home, the estimated property tax would be $1,684.21. It then shows a breakdown of where that money goes with 55 percent going between Granite School District and West Valley City.