West Jordan, Utah's fastest-growing city, is having growing pains. And a proposal to raise property taxes about $3 a month on a $67,000 house to help fund capital improvements is seen as an antidote to dwindling revenues and phenomenal growth.
Property taxes and retail license fees and an additional half-cent sales tax on purchases are all that fund government of the bedroom community, which has grown by leaps and bounds in 18 years.The capital improvements plan, proponents say, would draw businesses into West Jordan while decreasing the burden landowners bear for funding city government and services.
Several hundred residents crowded a hot West Jordan Junior High School auditorium Thursday night to hear the lowdown on the proposal from Mayor Kristin Lambert.
The property tax would increase what the city receives from every dollar residents pay. West Jordan now receives 13 cents for every $1 collected in property taxes. With the increase, those 13 pennies would jump to 18 cents.
"It does not mean your total property tax goes up. That one piece of the pie goes up 40 percent," Lambert said, adding the total residents pay in property taxes will increase only about 5 percent.
The increase already has been endorsed by the city council. Another public hearing on the increase as well as discussion of a separate $5 million bonding plan is on tap for Tuesday.
In essence, the property tax increase would pay for transportation and infrastructure improvements, while bonding would pay for additional needs the city has, plus a little bit thrown in to draw development.
"They keep raising taxes every year," said John Williams, 3456 W. Charing Cross Road. "You gotta figure how much taxes can people afford to pay."
Williams was one of 74 people to sign up to speak at the meeting, which lasted past midnight. He cooled his heels outside the school as citizens milled around waiting for a turn before the microphone.
"The economy's affected everybody in the state - everybody," Williams said, repeating contentions that the city should make do with what it receives rather than increase taxes.
But Debbie Sharp, a 14-year West Jordan resident, said she is not concerned about tax dollars being wasted.
"I know right where by tax dollars are going," said Sharp, adding, "I'm not for a tax increase . . . But I'm not willing to let services slide."
Services have been sliding in recent years, said Lambert. West Jordan had a population of 4,200 in 1970, 49,500 in 1988, and projections are for 91,000 residents by 2000.
"While the city has been growing at the fastest rate of any other city in Utah, our revenues are flat or declining," Lambert said. "West Jordan's sales tax rate has been falling even faster than the state rate."
Dwindling building revenues, declining sales taxes and increased demands in services, coupled with reduced federal funds available to small cities, have put West Jordan in a poor spot, Lambert said.
The city has had $500,000 in shortfalls two years running. In past years, West Jordan has eliminated positions, curtailed spending and postponed improvement projects. Last year, the city borrowed money to make up the deficit.
The city council will vote on the bonding proposal following Tuesday's public hearing. If approved, the measure will go to voters in an Oct. 4 bond election.