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Becker vetoes City Council's $8 million tax hike

Published June 20, 2013 9:54 am

Mayor says SLC Council's vote to hike property tax was reckless, but his beef is likely to be overturned.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Less than 24 hours after the Salt Lake City Council passed an $8 million property-tax increase as part of the city's 2013-14 annual budget, Mayor Ralph Becker kept his promise — he vetoed it.

Becker criticized the council Wednesday for moving forward with the property-tax plan that would add $67.93 to the annual tax bill for a house valued at $250,000 and $494 to business properties worth $1 million.

At a 1 p.m. City Hall news briefing, he said the tax would hit the city's poorest residents hard and burden small business after five tough economic years.

The mayor said the council did not consider a "range of funding options" and did not involve the public in a meaningful way when increasing property taxes.

The council has scheduled a 10 a.m. meeting Friday and is expected to override the veto.

In his annual budget address in April, Becker said that after six years of belt tightening, city services could not remain at current levels without revenue increases. He proposed a year-long discussion with residents and business owners on service levels and tax rates before forwarding any kind of tax increase proposal.

Under his plan, a property tax increase next year is not a given, the mayor said Wednesday.

New revenue streams could be created in the coming year, Becker said, through the "Marketplace Fairness Act" now before Congress that would allow cities to charge tax on Internet sales, new transportation fees like a gasoline tax and state funding to offset city services provided to commuters and visitors to Utah's capital city.

Becker said his proposed $213 million budget was the product of careful analysis.

"The mayor's budget team worked closely with department and division directors and first-responder chiefs for months on the budget proposal that was submitted to the council in May — a balanced fiscal plan that maintained appropriate levels of city services without a tax increase," he said in a prepared statement.

The council didn't buy that. Tuesday, citing crumbling infrastructure, it passed the budget and tax increase by a 5-2 margin. It takes five council votes to override a mayoral veto. The council is scheduled to meet 10 a.m. Friday to consider such an override.

Council members Luke Garrott, Kyle LaMalfa, Jill Remington Love, Charlie Luke and Soren Simonsen appear to be set to override the veto. Carlton Christensen and Stan Penfold did not favor a tax increase. The majority has asserted that deferring maintenance to roads and parks further will be more expensive in the long run.

Of the $8 million in increased property taxes, the council pledged to spend at least $4.6 million on streets, parks and other maintenance. About $3 million was added to Becker's proposed general services budget.

However, the mayor said Wednesday the council's characterization of his capital improvement budget as falling short is a mischaracterization of facts. The council has said it wants the capital improvements budget to equal 9 percent of the annual budget.

Becker produced data as far back as 2005 that showed the capital improvements budget was equivalent to 7 percent of the annual budget. His proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is 6.59 percent, a number that has been disputed by the council.

"I don't see this as any different than any other year I've been in office," Becker said.

Becker has never raised property taxes since beginning his first four-year term in 2008.

csmart@sltrib.com