Taxpayers packed the Salt Lake City Council Chambers for a public hearing on a tax hike Tuesday night, but here's a new twist: Nearly all spoke in favor of - not against - a small property tax increase for the city's library system.
The Salt Lake City Council already approved the 2.39 percent increase in the library system's budget when it passed the general fund budget in June. The increase amounts to about $3.44 on a $70,000 home.The increase triggered a state law calling for a "truth-in-taxation hearing," required when a city increases its certified tax rate above the previous year's rate.
All but one who spoke at the hearing favored the increase, saying the city's six libraries, including the main library, which has seen the largest growth of any major city library in the nation, are well worth the small cost.
"Without strong support for our libraries, we face cultural impoverishment . . . . I think we're getting a good deal for our tax dollars," said Patricia Miller, a Salt Lake businesswoman.
The only dissent came from the Utah Taxpayers Association's Howard Stevenson.
"We feel that this year with the tax revolt going on . . . that the tax increase is like taunting an angry lion," he said.
City Council members had feared the tax increase would bring on protests from the anti-tax movement backing the initiatives. But the hearing was amiable, prompting one official to call it a "love feast."
The congenial hearing followed several presentations by city officials to demonstrate the paltry size of the 2.39 percent tax increase for the library.
"I want to stress to you that the Salt Lake City Council has made every effort to stretch the city's resources," Council Chairman Tom Godfrey said.
Libraries Director Dennis Day told the audience the tax hike would fund a $246,000 "pay-as-you-go program," the biggest portion of which would fund a capital improvements plan over the next 10 years.
Additionally, the increase would fund pay raises for library employees who are paid on average of 16 percent less than other city employees and purchases of books and other library materials.
The increase will fund renovation of the Anderson-Foothill, Avenues, Sprague, Rose Park and Chapman branches and the Main Library. A capital savings fund will also be set up to build a new library in the city's northwest quadrant.