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Fact Check: Mia Love on Taxes

Jim Matheson took aim at Mia Love’s tax record this week. His claim: That she raised property taxes three times in Saratoga Springs and is likely to raise taxes again if she is elected to Congress.

The Utah Republican Party, meantime, has a pro-Love mailer out this week that claims: "Mia Love cut property taxes and cut $2 million from the Saratoga Springs budget."

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The Saratoga Springs budget issue is one we explored fairly thoroughly when Love got into the race in February. To recap:

Since it incorporated in 1997, the booming city was able to balance its budget largely on building permits. But when the housing market crashed, building froze and home values dropped, leaving the city with a $3 million shortfall.

The City Council, which Love served on at the time, cut the budget and was pitched a 400 percent tax increase. The council, including Love, voted to raise property taxes 116 percent, from .09 percent to .2 percent.

So that is clearly true.

The 2009 and 2010 tax hikes Matheson is claiming are more problematic.

While it is true the tax rate in Saratoga Springs climbed in each year to a total of .3 percent in 2011, those were automatic rate increases based on falling property values.

Here’s how it works: In Utah, municipalities are guaranteed the same amount of property tax revenue plus an adjustment for growth each year. When property values fall, as they have in Saratoga Springs, the rate is adjusted upward to maintain the property tax revenue.

If you own a $200,000 home and pay a .1 percent property tax rate, you pay $200 to the city. If your home value falls to $100,000, your property tax rate could double to .2 percent to ensure you continue to pay $200. But do your property taxes go up? No.

That’s what happened in Saratoga Springs in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

If the city wants to bring in more property tax revenue, they have to hold a Truth-In-Taxation hearing, which Saratoga Springs only did one time, in 2008.

So Matheson’s claim that Love raised property taxes three times in Saratoga Springs is only partly true. However, there is no record of Love voting to cut property taxes while on the council and, as mayor, she doesn't vote. So the claim by the Republican Party is false.

-- Robert Gehrke

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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