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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan raising property taxes to fund public safety

Aug 20, 2018 03:07PM ● By Jana Klopsch

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

As part of the Truth in Taxation process, any municipality wishing to raise property taxes must have a public hearing. On Aug. 7, South Jordan City Council voted to raise property taxes in a 4-1 vote.  

The meeting began with a 10-minute video explaining the details and need for the proposed property tax increase. As the city continues to experience vast residential growth and related commercial growth, the need for a new public safety hub on the west side of the city has risen. Fire Chief Andy Butler and Police Chief Jeff Carr both expressed concern around response times.

“The call volume on the west side has shown an increase in calls,” said Carr. “There is a need for a sub-station in the west side of the city.”

The proposed property tax increase (the rate of which would be approximately $19 per year for a home valued at $400,000) would generate money to help fund a new Public Safety Center, addressing the concern of both chiefs. The center would house a new fire station, a police sub-station, some administrative city services and provide additional community space. The total estimated cost for the building is set at $12.8 million.

“Tonight’s proposal is an investment in our future and critical to meet the needs of today,” said City Manager Gary Whatcott during the video.

At approximately 6:46 p.m., Mayor Dawn Ramsey opened the public comment session. She reminded the audience that the session would need to close at 7:02 p.m. [j1]

A few residents spoke in favor of the proposed property tax increase during the Truth in Taxation public hearing.

“The council was forward thinking on this,” said resident Brian Maxwell. “I am in full support of this tax increase, and I never thought I would say that.”

However, the majority of residents opposed the tax increase.

“I’m being taxed to death by the state and city,” said resident Crystal Hansen. “I am in charge of my household’s budget. If someone needs some money, I rework my budget to find the money. I don’t put it on someone else. I can find money in my budget. Why can’t you?”

Resident Judd Bedaford also spoke about the expensiveness of taxes. “I’m here to raise the voice for the fixed-income people. An increase in property tax means a decrease in spendable money for the elderly.”

“I am against any further tax increases, even when designated for specific projects,” said resident Rex Perry. “Make a smaller facility that would meet current needs that could be expanded in the future.”

Resident Andrew Hill had a similar sentiment.

“Before you consider taxing for more buildings, if you have the land, wait and allow the growth of the city to pay for the new things,” Hill said.

“Quit blowing the bank,” said resident Kevin Tom. “Three of you (gesturing toward the council) are MBAs and are smart enough to know better.”

Resident Jim Hollifest voiced a different opinion.

“The west side is going to grow, and I don’t think those costs should be paid for by the east side residents,” Hollifest said. “I don’t see a reason to tax people on the east side for facilities on the west.”

At 7:02 p.m., Ramsey began to close the public comment session but was quickly interrupted by residents who still wished to comment.

“You should have allowed more time for us,” began a resident still standing before the podium. Soon, many residents from the audience joined his cry, shouting statements such as: “listen to us,” “give us more time” and “this is unacceptable.” One resident even began quoting state law, reading a segment stating that all residents wishing to comment must be heard.

After a few minutes, Ramsey called for order in the chamber and warned, “I will not ask again.”

City Attorney Ryan Loose was asked to explain the reason for the time restriction. There was a hot topic up for discussion later in the evening on the council’s agenda. In anticipation, the meeting had been moved to Bingham High School’s auditorium to accommodate the size of the anticipated audience. The city quickly received multiple calls from the Utah Tax Payers Association regarding the location change.

“We followed the lead of the state legislature and others for a set amount of time for comments,” Loose said. “Our original agenda had more time.”

“A number of people were fighting to move it back here and threatening litigation against the city if we didn’t,” Ramsey further explained.

After many more disapproving comments from residents, Ramsey allowed for the public comment session to continue, even though there was an auditorium full of residents waiting for the council.

Five more residents voiced their concerns before the public comment session was closed. City councilmembers then shared their opinions.

“I’m opposed to tax increases,” Councilman Brad Marlor said. “I’m also opposed to crime and houses burning down.”

Councilman Donald Shelton echoed Marlor’s sentiment.

“When I ran for office last year, one of the two top issues was public safety,” he said. “I’m very committed to having good public safety.”

Councilman Patrick Harris added, “Even though I am supportive of our fire department, there are ways to pair this down in cost a lot more.”

“I appreciate those who are here,” Councilwoman Tamara Zander said. “I don’t appreciate the comments of east versus west. We are a city. It doesn’t matter to me where you are stationed and how long you’ve been paying taxes. It’s all of us in our best interest to look out for all of us. It’s not us against them. We will be a stronger more viable city when we look out for each other. I’m sorry that was even mentioned. I am not a fan of raising taxes. No one is excited about this. This came onto our plate in February. Some people said this should have been addressed earlier. It’s on our radar now. If this passes, there are things we can still fine tune about this building.”