City officials from Davis County presented their legislators with a wish list of items they would like the next Utah Legislature to consider, with tax and revenue measures heading the slate.
Members of the Davis Council of Governments met with state representatives and senators in their annual fall dinner session at the Hill Air Force Base Officer's Club.Reform of the Truth in Taxation statute leads the list of COG requests, submitted to the lawmakers by COG Chairman DeLore Thurgood, mayor of Syracuse.
The current law limits cities in their collection of property tax. Any increase in the amount of property tax revenue collected, even if the tax rate remains unchanged, is considered a tax increase under the law.
That means cities with average or high growth rates cannot collect additional property taxes generated by growth without calling it a tax increase. Cities experiencing growth must reduce their tax rate from year to year to stay under the cap on revenue imposed by the law.
Thurgood and the rest of the city officials would like to see the statute changed from a revenue to rate basis. Thurgood, who had a protracted battle with the State Tax Commission this year over some of the law's requirements, also wants the statute's provisions on advertising amended.
The law requires that cities approving a tax increase advertise it with a quarter-page ad in a newspaper and hold a public hearing on the increase.
"I have several concerns about this law. I call it the legislative intimidation law," said Thurgood.
Other requests include collecting and distributing sales tax revenue and gasoline taxes back to the cities monthly instead of quarterly; putting the state, cities, and counties on a common fiscal-year basis; and restoration of the Antelope Island causeway.
The causeway renovation was funded at $7 million in the last legislative session but killed at the last minute.
Thurgood estimated restoring the causeway to the island park will bring in up to $14 million annually in tourist revenue. Restoration of the causeway and renovation of facilities on the island could cost $10 million to $12 million, he estimated.
One proposal floated to the legislators is to increase the park entry fee from $3 to $5, with the additional revenue to pay for the renovation work.
West Point Mayor Howard Stoddard, coming off a battle with the Hooper Water District, wants legislators to look at how special service districts are formed and their legal rights and obligations.
Legal issues of overlapping services and regulation of districts also need to be resolved, the mayor said.
School board member Bob Thurgood, who owns two lubrication service centers, said the state needs to address the issue of disposal of waste oil. Home mechanics who change their own oil can't find any place to dispose of it legally, he said, and are dumping it illegally into sewers, irrigation ditches, and onto the ground.
Mayors Michael Kjar of Centerville and Robert Arbuckle of Farmington want the legislature to consider a formula to equalize capital spending in school districts, including construction of new buildings.
Districts such as Davis with a high growth rate but low tax base are penalized under present state law, Kjar said. The district is struggling to build the schools it needs but is handicapped because it is at the legal limit of its bonding ability.
Other districts with relatively low student populations and a larger tax base are nowhere near their bonding capacity, Kjar said, proposing the burden be equalized.
The legislators praised COG members for their work, saying it helps to have information and support from their constituents when moving bills through the session.
Attending the meeting were veteran legislators Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton; Sen. Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful; Rep. Joe Hull, D-Hooper; and Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful.
Also attending were newly elected representatives Kevin Garn, R-Layton; Gale Voigt, D-Syracuse; and Vern Borgeson, D-Clearfield.