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Salt Lake City Council overrides mayor's veto, upholds $8 million tax increase

Published: Friday, June 21 2013 2:44 p.m. MDT

The Salt Lake City Council convened Friday morning to override Mayor Ralph Becker's veto of the 2013-14 budget and accompanying 13.8 percent property tax increase, succeeding with a 5-2 supermajority vote.

Steve Greenwood

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council convened Friday morning to override Mayor Ralph Becker's veto of the 2013-14 budget and accompanying 13.8 percent property tax increase, succeeding with a 5-2 supermajority vote.

It didn't take long.

Council members made their positions clear at a meeting Tuesday afternoon when they voted to adopt the budget, and they briefly reiterated those sentiments after Friday's vote.

Chairman Kyle LaMalfa and the majority of his City Council colleagues contend that essential infrastructure needs must be funded before they turn into more expensive problems.

"We have come to the conclusion we cannot continue to delay fixing our aging streets or further trim the budgets in public safety," LaMalfa said. "We are not proposing lavish expenditures. … Cheaper repairs now mean less costly replacement later."

The $8 million tax hike, which dedicates $5 million exclusively for capital projects, amounts to an additional $54 per year on a $200,000 home.

With the increase, the city's budget for the upcoming fiscal year sits at $64.2 million.

Councilmen Stan Penfold and Carlton Christensen, who have consistently voted against the tax increase, again voiced concern about a lack of public engagement as the hike was considered and whether the time is right to add to taxpayers' burdens.

"Clearly, the question through this process has been, 'Where are we in our crisis?'" Penfold said. "I think the difference in opinion, from my perspective, is I don't think we're about to collapse. Maybe council members think that's where we are."

Penfold went on to say he regrets that more opportunities for public engagement weren't provided as the tax hike was considered, a concern Becker also raised when he attempted to veto the budget.

A public hearing will be held July 9 when the council meets to prioritize what capital projects it hopes to fund, and residents are encouraged to provide feedback on the budget up until the Aug. 15 truth-in-taxation hearing.

Art Raymond, a spokesman for Becker's office, said the concern going forward is whether the city has sufficient staffing in place to plan and carry out the proposed maintenance. Nevertheless, Raymond said the administration will be actively communicating with the council as it establishes funding priorities.

Included in Becker's veto were a series of contingencies built into the budget, linking some of the mayor's projects to issues the council said were neglected over the past year, such as a requirement that the administration investigate the possibility of paying for new bus shelters through advertising before a new transportation deputy director job can be funded.

The council voted unanimously to uphold those contingencies.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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