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Residents of Draper community push tax-repeal ballot effort

Published August 8, 2014 7:55 pm

Draper • Traverse Ridge residents fight perceived inflation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A group of residents in southeastern Draper's Traverse Ridge neighborhood are trying to get on the ballot to fight what they believe are inflated property taxes.

Friday, they finished handing in petitions to Salt Lake and Utah county clerks to launch a referendum repealing the budget and tax levy set for the Traverse Ridge Special Service District.

Some 369 signatures were turned in, well in excess of what was needed to get the repeal on the Nov. 4 ballot, said Christine McClory, one of the organizers of the effort.

McClory is confident the petition signatures will ultimately be certified and the referendum put before district voters.

"I think it's true that this is the first of its kind," she said Friday.

Mark Thomas, state elections director, says the situation is unique because few special districts are governed by a city council, as in the case of Traverse Ridge.

"I've only heard of just a small handful," he said. That makes a big difference because state law provides for referendums in cities and counties — with no authority for such elections by special-service districts.

At issue is what McClory and others call "double taxation" of some 1,200 households in the district, first formed in 1999 to cover the extra costs of snow removal, road maintenance and lighting in the community straddling the Salt Lake-Utah county line.

Residents acknowledge that the cost of services is higher in their community because of its elevation and geography. But they think the taxes are far beyond what is justified by those expenses.

City officials have hired an outside consultant to evaluate the tax, with results expected in a few weeks.

The tax rate for district residents is nearly twice the rate for the city at large and Traverse Ridge homeowners pay both.

In one resident's 2013 property tax bill included on the group's website, trssc.org, a home valued at $261,500 is subject to a $271.40 city tax, plus a district tax of $483.25.

"The discrepancies [in the extra cost of service and the taxes levied] are beyond the pale," said McClory.

But Draper City Manager David Dobbins say the proposed referendum is problematic.

"If all the revenue to provide those [extra] services is eliminated, then the city won't have those funds to provide those services at the same level it is now providing," Dobbins said.

"The referendum is to eliminate the budget — not to reduce it or change it," he said. If the referendum passed, "we would provide services at a level consistent with what we provide for the rest of the city."

Dobbins said city officials are concerned they wouldn't have the authority to simply approve an amended tax rate because state law establishes May and June as the time frame for setting rates.

"We're still working with our attorneys to determine what legal options we have as far as creating an entirely new tax rate in the middle of the fiscal year," he said.