Salt Lake City poised to raise property taxes; Mayor Becker still opposed
City Council • Votes appear set despite Becker’s vow not to raise taxes this year.
Published: June 12, 2013 09:59AM
Updated: June 12, 2013 09:58AM
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Ralph Becker ï Salt Lake City Mayor

You can take it out of the bank: The Salt Lake City Council has five votes to raise an additional $7 million in property taxes.

The official vote is expected next week. The tax increase would be equivalent to $59.40 on a house valued at $250,000; and $432 on a business structure valued at $1 million.

Council members Tuesday cited crumbling roads, run-down parks and an aging vehicle fleet in signaling their intent to raise taxes despite a pledge by Mayor Ralph Becker that he would not do so this year.

The mayor reiterated his no-tax pledge again in a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed published Saturday. In it, he said he would take the upcoming year “to fully engage residents in thoughtful conversation” on revenue increases and service levels before raising taxes.

Becker has not raised property taxes during his 5 ½ years in office.

It takes four votes by the seven member council to pass any action, including a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. In the case of a veto, however, the council needs five votes to override the mayor.

The tax discussion Tuesday went forward with that in mind. Councilmen Kyle LaMalfa, Soren Simonsen and Luke Garrott sought an $8 million tax increase. But Councilwoman Jill Remington Love would only go as high as $7 million. Councilman Charlie Luke also agreed to the $7 million increase.

Councilmen Stan Penfold and Carlton Christensen gave a thumb’s down to the $7 million proposal. Christensen said he would go along with a $3 million tax increase. But Penfold would not buy off on any tax increase.

The council is expected to pass the 2013-14 budget on June 18. Becker has 15 days to veto all or parts of it. The council then has until July 9 to override the mayor, if he were to exercise his veto power.

Love said the city had faced tough times beginning in 2009 and trimmed the capital improvements budget to make ends meet.

“I don’t want to send a signal to residents that we aren’t a well-run city because we are,” she said. “But we have to raise taxes whether it’s this year or next year. There’s no getting around it.”

About $4 million of the proposed $7 million increase would go to infrastructure maintenance. Just under $3 million would go to increased services the council identified in the general fund. The tax increase would boost the budget total to $220 million.

Simonsen said the council and its staff have had to work extra hard on this budget because the mayor did not provide a capital-maintenance analysis.

“I don’t see this as an extravagant tax increase,” Simonsen said. “But it does allow us to move forward.”

csmart@sltrib.com