Like the evasive unicorn, reliable information about local politics is fantastically elusive. Unfortunately, emotional drivel instead of facts saturate the news and media we rely upon to make sensible decisions. No wonder apathy or hysteria are common bedfellows at the polls.
This is especially true of recent information being generated about Millcreek Township's incorporation.
During the past three years, over 250 volunteers from Millcreek neighborhoods have circulated petitions to bring the City of Millcreek to a vote. The county clerk has determined that 20.1 percent on the county's "active" registered voter list, have signed.
To dispel misinformation circulated by opponents of incorporation, here are key reasons why becoming the City of Millcreek is the right choice:
• Feasibility. Prior to the final petition drive, an independent feasibility study was commissioned by Salt Lake County in spring 2011. The study revealed that even during a recession, Millcreek generated enough sales and property tax to have 100.3 percent of the revenue necessary to support itself as a city in every aspect of incorporation, including funding salaries for all officials, all municipal services, a government building and $1 million for economic development.
• Budget surplus. Projections from the study were a 1 percent annual increase in revenue and a 2.5 percent annual increase in expenses. If the same financial speculation was applied to Salt Lake County, unincorporated Millcreek residents should expect tax hikes in the next few years or reduction in services by remaining a township in the county.
But such projections were reversed by findings of the county auditor's office in June 2011. Its municipal services budget showed that revenue in Salt Lake County grew 3 percent, not the 1 percent that the consultants had projected. When the 3 percent growth rate is applied to the consultant's five-year projected Millcreek budget, the City of Millcreek generates a budget surplus each of the five upcoming years.
• Start-up costs. The county is required to return municipal services fees paid into its budget by Millcreek residents and property owners. (See Utah Code Section 10-2-121.) All three county mayoral candidates have said that the necessary start-up costs for Millcreek would be provided.
• Self-governance. As a city, Millcreek would take control of its own municipal government. This is not a duplication of services, but a reallocation of our part of the municipal services fund. If Millcreek were to incorporate it would be the fifth-largest city in Salt Lake County and the 10th-largest city in the state. Approximately 65,000 people live in the township and there isn't one who has more than recommending power to the county about our taxes, government, zoning or services.
Being a city would allow us to keep the sales and property tax generated here. We would have control of planning and zoning and a voice in valley- and region-wide policies including transportation and business development.
• Protection from annexation. Don't be deceived. There is an overwhelming probability of annexations to adjacent cities in our immediate future unless we incorporate. Adjacent cities have proposed annexation plans that include areas of unincorporated Millcreek. The incorporation effort is a now-or-never proposition; we will not have this choice for autonomy again. We either become the City of Millcreek, controlling our destiny and protecting the community we love, or, as a nearby city leader says: we'll be "picked off faster than buzzards on roadkill."
To preserve and create our best Millcreek, we must become the City of Millcreek. Without raising taxes or decreasing services, we will have budget surpluses moving forward. Governing ourselves, we can become the best possible Millcreek now and for future generations. For more information, go to: http://www.futureofmillcreek.org.
Anna Clare Shepherd is a 34-year resident of East Millcreek, former school teacher and social worker. She is a past member of the East Mill Creek Community Council and is the Future of Millcreek Association chair. Contributing to this op-ed is Susan Astle, a member of the Millcreek Township Council.