Salt Lake County commissioners used their monthly press conference Monday to state individual positions against the initiative that would remove the sales tax on food.
Commission Chairman Mike Stewart, who returned Sunday from a National Governors Association conference, also blasted the proposed federal budget for the coming year because of a provision that would eliminate the deductibility of state and local income taxes."There is deep frustration across this land that, in fact, you're pillaging the village that makes the American intergovernmental fabric work," he said of the proposed elimination of state and local tax deductions, which he characterized as the average taxpayer's most valuable tax shelter.
Stewart went on to say the federal budget is moving further and further away from local revenue sharing and predicted the deduction for local property taxes will soon be threatened if the deduction-elimination trend continues.
On the state ballot issue, Commissioner Bart Barker said the commission as a body would not take a position for or against the proposal to remove the sales tax on food, just as it did not take a position on the 1988 tax limitation initiatives even though each commission member took a personal stand against the initiatives.
Salt Lake City and West Valley City, the two largest municipalities in the state, have had to raise taxes this year to pay for additional law enforcement officers, said Commissioner Tom Shimizu. Losing the sales tax on food would cost the county's municipal services budget $2.4 million in the first year, and most of that reduction would either have to be made up through a property tax increase or by cutting services in the sheriff's patrol, fire department or highway department, he said.
Stewart said the county would not raise taxes to deal with the loss of sales tax revenues, if the initiative on the November ballot passes, but said the taxes may have to be raised "for other things."
"We do know there will be a need for sales taxes in the future," Barker said.
Shimizu announced that for the first time in five years the fire department will buy two new trucks to bolster an aging fleet of equipment. Commissioners approved a year-end budget adjustment of up to $275,000 to buy the new pumper engine and 2,500 gallon water tanker. The new acquisitions will allow the department to put two older trucks in the reserve fleet, which will help keep fire crews equipped when trucks are taken out of service for maintenance.
Also at the press conference, Barker said women are underrepresented among the county's 1,246 volunteers who serve on 97 county policy and advisory boards. Barker did not say how many women currently serve but said the county is "looking for a few good women" to "provide an adequate balance."
Most representatives on the county boards are limited to two consecutive three-year terms, which makes for frequent turnover. The county is particularly interested in recruiting people who have other careers but want to serve even if they don't want to run for public office.