Appointed state water officials are expressing concern about funding cuts that would follow if the tax limitation initiatives pass.
At a Friday meeting in Salt Lake City, the Utah Board of Water Resources approved thousands of dollars in funding assistance for water development projects in the state.But then vice chairman Eugene Johansen warned that state money for such projects would dry up if voters approve the tax limitation initiative on the November ballot.
"The Legislature will take care of colleges, but nobody's going to think about us," Johansen said. "We have to have general obligation fees or user fees," he said, otherwise there won't be any money for water development.
"Programs such as water development will suffer much more than schools," echoed Wayne Winegar, board chairman.
Central Utah Project officials, who will soon be working on next year's budget, have been reviewing taxation figures and speculated about what cuts would have to be made if voters pass the property tax limitation initiative.
Don A. Christiansen, general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which collects ad-valorem taxes in 12 Utah counties to pay project costs, told the 19-member CUP board the district's tax revenues would be cut from $12.3 million to $7.56 million if the property tax limitation initiative passes.
Christiansen said of the three tax initiatives proposed, the one limiting property taxes would have the most impact on the district.
Like many taxing agencies, the district has had staff members conduct a thorough review of budget impacts the initiatives would create before putting a pen to operating budgets for the coming year. Tax revenue estimates were provided by the Utah State Tax Commission, Christiansen said.
To compensate for the potential 38.5 percent cut in tax revenues, the district could eliminate a major portion of its capital improvements program, which includes such projects as the Hatch Town Dam and the Jordan Terminal Reservoir. Those projects would either be eliminated or delayed until other funds became available. Both projects had been slated for construction in 1992.
Another major draw on the district's tax revenues is a one-third matching program for municipal water projects developed by the district. Tax initiative cuts would mean the 34 percent of the cost of local water projects now paid by the district would have to be passed on to water users.
Treatment plant development periods would also be affected with treatment costs shifted to water users; the district would have to review its policy of placing one-fourth of its revenues into a debt service sinking fund; and the district could also find itself borrowing for construction projects it currently pays cash for, Christiansen said.