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No need to incorporate Millcreek

Published November 3, 2012 1:01 am

For: Changes have made status quo a bad deal for residents
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With the impending Millcreek incorporation vote, it is time to set some notions straight. As a resident of the township for eight years, my property is located on the border of Murray and the address is listed as Salt Lake City. As a condo owner, the homeowners association pays for its own trash pickup, but fire and police services — among others — are provided by Salt Lake County.

My interest in the issue began when I was approached to sign the petition asking for residents to be given a "choice" about how to be governed so that Millcreek Township's identity could be maintained..

The incorporation effort has been primarily centered among East Mill Creek residents with whom most township residents don't share any common identity. The supposed "danger" was that if Millcreek voters weren't given a "choice" on self-governance, other cities were lining up to annex and split up the township.

In reality, however, the only way for residents in unincorporated areas to be annexed under current state law, is to petition for annexation. No city can arbitrarily annex any portion of unincorporated areas in Salt Lake County.

Currently, no petitions exist from any group of citizens requesting annexation. Additionally, four community councils provide more representation of citizen needs than the new city could ever provide. Incorporation seems to be a solution looking for a problem.

Municipal services provided by the county include road repair, snow removal, sanitation, animal control, in addition to police and fire services. The county provides engineering and flood control and there is also a separate planning and zoning commission for Millcreek Township.

Average residents in the township would be hard-pressed to find problems related to cost of services or how those services are delivered. The county has been better able to maintain services through the recession and recovery than many municipal governments such as Midvale, Riverton, Holladay and Taylorsville — all of which have seen increased property taxes or shifting of services back to Salt Lake County. The incorporators can't guarantee that cost of services won't increase, or that the level of current services won't decrease. Nor can they guarantee the new city would have the financial resources to address such issues.

The county's 2011 feasibility study shows that the new city would not be able to sustain the current level of services without an increase in taxes for property owners or businesses. A recent analysis authored by the group that did the original study shows a surplus of funds primarily from increased sales tax revenue due to economic recovery.

This analysis is flawed because county-wide sales tax revenue is allocated to cities based on 50 percent point of sale and 50 percent population. If incorporation passes, the new city would compete for sales tax revenue with all incorporated cities in the county. Population growth within the township will be less than 2-10ths of 1 percent each year, while cities in southern Salt Lake County will make up most of the 16 percent growth anticipated through 2020, according to the Governor's Office of Planning & Budget.

As other cities grow, they will get a larger piece of the sales tax "population pie" than would a slow-growing Millcreek City. With limited commercial development, businesses within the township should not expect the same growth rate of sales as the rest of the county — meaning the "50 percent point of sale" piece of the sales tax pie will also be smaller.

Staying with a level of government that is dependable and affordable is the best choice for "Millcreek identity," rather than choosing a new government that would be unpredictable and potentially costly.

Chris Stout is a Salt Lake City-area accountant and the Democratic candidate for state treasurer.