If you own property in West Valley City, expect an increase in your tax bill this year.
In a cycle that usually happens every couple of years, the city plans a 9% boost to its property tax rate. This proposed hike would apply only to the city’s portion of the bill.
That translates to about $60 more a year on the average $315,000 home.
“Every four-ish years or so, we find ourselves, on average, in some sort of situation which leads us to come back and ask for a property tax increase,” City Manager Wayne Pyle said. “And we’re in that position again.”
The change comes amid inflation and issues with personnel retention. The city says it needs $3.5 million to cover salary bumps, especially in public safety. The Police Department alone has seen an increase of $6 million to $7 million in personnel costs in the past two years.
Police officers are budgeted for raises of about 5% to 7%, depending on the offices’ careers, in the city’s proposed spending plan.
“I’m really pleased that we can increase our officers’ pay,” said first-year Mayor Karen Lang. “I think the officers have been behind in the pay scale for quite a while. And I’m glad we can move that up for them because they do a great job for our city.”
With gas prices soaring, it also costs more for police cars to patrol neighborhoods and crews to mow park lawns.
“Everything is justified in [the] increases,” Lang said.
So far, Utah’s second most-populous city has covered the rising costs through the additional property and sales taxes new or expanding businesses bring when they locate within its borders, Pyle said, but that revenue isn’t keeping up.
“All of the departments — non-public safety as well — have received pretty substantial increases for wage and personnel costs,” Pyle said. “We haven’t added positions; it’s just been the wage increases.”
In the past 10 years, the police force has struggled to retain officers, Pyle explained, especially after the 2020 protests against police violence and last year’s creation of the Taylorsville Police Department, which prompted many officers to leave for better pay.
“Our [City] Council also saw that we were at high risk of losing more officers again,” Pyle said. “That’s why I made the recommendation this year to pay our police that much more, or we’re not going to be able to keep up.”
Retention issues not only affect the police but also other jobs, such as crossing guards. Costs have gone up there, too, and workers have seized opportunities to make more money elsewhere.
Other than that, he said, the budget hasn’t changed much.
Last year, the city implemented a $3 monthly fee to improve streetlights.
The council approved a tentative $98.7 million budget in early May. It will sign off on the final spending plan Aug. 9 after public hearings on the proposed property tax hike.
“The final budget,” Pyle said, “rarely differs significantly from the tentative budget.”
Even with the proposed tax bump, he maintains the city runs a lean operation
“We don’t overstaff,” he said. “And that, combined with the economic strength of the city, allows us to put together a really pretty effective and efficient budget every year.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.