SALT LAKE CITY — A total of 46 cities, school districts and other entities in Utah have proposed tax increases on the table, all of which must be addressed at public Truth in Taxation hearings.
Denny Lytle, director of the Property Tax Division for the Utah State Tax Commission, said the Truth in Taxation process allows residents their best chance to be heard as tax rates are finalized.
"The Truth in Taxation Hearings are the way to affect the rate, so the amount that is charged on their value," Lytle said. "If they just have concerns about the amount of tax they're paying, this is the meeting they should go to."
The hearings are the last stop before proposed tax rates are locked in. The tax rate can be lowered at such hearings, but not raised. The hearings start as early as Tuesday, and run through Aug. 20.
The Utah Taxpayers Association has compiled a list of the 46 proposed increases, as well as the date and time of their accompanying public hearing, on their website at www.utahtaxpayers.org.
As the hearings get underway, members of the Utah Taxpayers Association are paying special attention to just over a dozen pending tax hikes that they find particularly concerning, Vice President Royce Van Tassell said. The association made up of businesses and individuals across Utah has been the state's "tax watchdog" since 1922.
For example, in Salt Lake City, residents are looking at as many as three separate tax increases: one from the city, one from Salt Lake County and one from the Salt Lake City School Board. That's too much, Van Tassell said.
"Mayor (Ralph) Becker didn't think a tax increase was necessary in Salt Lake, and it's hard to understand the explanation for the Salt Lake school district proposed tax increase," Van Tassell said. "(Taxpayers) shouldn't have to see three different property tax increases in the same year."
Even more troubling, Van Tassell said, are proposed increases in Enoch and Santaquin, which double property taxes in one fell swoop. The same is true for proposals in Farr West and Harrisville in Weber County.
"We have residents from across the state who are frustrated with some very large tax increases," Van Tassell said. "It runs the state."
In the 29 years that Lytle has worked for the Property Tax Division, there have been other years like this — just not recently.
"These are pretty average increases," Lytle said. "We haven't had these kind of increases for a while, but we have seen these kinds and numbers of increases before."
Lytle advises Utahns to pay attention to the notices they should have received in the mail announcing the current assessed values of their homes. If homeowners believe their home value has been estimated too high, driving up the property tax they are expected to pay, they have 45 days to appeal.
Utah taxpayers can use the Truth in Taxation process to hold elected officials accountable, Van Tassell said. He attributes the state's lower-than-average property tax rate to the opportunity for public comment and scrutiny.
"Get out, let (elected leaders) know what you think," he said. "Talk to your neighbors, and make sure that they let them know what they think."
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