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Van Tassell said Utah has higher-than-average income and sales tax, but has below-average property taxes largely because of "truth-in-taxation" laws. If governments propose property tax rates that would generate more revenue than the previous year, they must advertise and hold public hearings. Such meetings canattract upset residents— sometimes hundreds of them —and threaten elected officials’ political futures.
"That testifies to what a good taxpayer-protection tool the truth-in-taxation system is," Van Tassell said. Valuation notices include the time and place of all scheduled truth-in-taxation hearings, and Van Tassell said some hearings every year sway officials to lower or skip proposed increases.
Biggest increases » Among some other big tax increases statewide are:
» Pleasant Grove is proposing a $146.03 increase on a $225,000 home, up 52.7 percent. "It is for a new police and fire station," said city administrator Scott Darrington. He said the current fire station was built in 1949, and the police station in 1977. He said the city, which last raised taxes in 1982, needs more space and worries the old structures are not safe in earthquakes.
» Tooele County proposes a $109.52 increase on a $225,000 home, up 68.6 percent. It has been in financial crisis because of the closing of the Deseret Chemical Depot, and drastic reductions in waste-mitigation fees. That has prompted deep staff and service cuts, including canceling the county fair and closing the swimming pool at the Deseret Peak recreation complex.
» Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker initially vetoed a hike of $67.57 on a $225,000 home, up 10.2 percent. But the City Council overrode that veto. The council says the increase is needed for the city’s crumbling streets, run-down parks and other deferred maintenance. It said part of the money will also keep police and fire service at current levels despite expiration of some federal grants.
» The Salt Lake City School District is also proposing a tax hike of $24.75 on a $225,000 home, up 3.1 percent. District officials say the increase is needed to maintain current services. Van Tassell said his Utah Taxpayers Association is "disappointed to see the city and school district going through truth in taxation at the same time. It’s not at all clear to us that the tax hike is necessary" for both.
» Taylorsville is proposing a $76.48 increase on a $225,000 home, up 29.4 percent. But that comes after city leaders last year raised property taxes 14.5 percent, or $35.53 on a $250,000 home. The city says the hike is needed for roads and public safety costs. "We are skeptical" of the need for back-to-back tax hikes there, Van Tassell said.
» Some other larger proposed tax increases are: Woodland Hills, up $108.65 on a $225,000 home, or 16.3 percent; Uintah City, up $100.49, or 78.4 percent; Harrisville, up $90.96, or 100 percent; and Daggett County, up $90.46, or 18.5 percent.
Some governments that propose big increases by percentage — even though the total cost per homeowner may not be as high as elsewhere — include: Farr West, up 166.2 percent, or $54.70 on a $225,000 home; Newton Cemetery Maintenance District, up 100 percent, or $12.75; Laketown Fire District, up 97.7 percent, or $26.11; and Glenwood, up 90.8 percent, or $79.08.
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