A group of West Jordan residents said it wants to work with the City Council to find a way to reduce taxes.
Several members of the City Council encouraged the group's participation and said the avenues for input are available."The recent tax increase is most untimely and the franchise tax is unfair," said Jean Bourque, spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of West Jordan.
The group was formed after the city approved a 40 percent city property tax hike and implemented a 6 percent utility franchise tax earlier this summer. The council also eliminated a half-cent city sales tax known as the retail license fee.
Bourque commended the council for removing the retail license fee in the overall budget process, but said the Oct. 4 defeat of a $5.4 million bond proposal was a mandate to the city that the tax increases - and the projects they would have funded - aren't wanted by West Jordan residents.
"The people voted not only against the bond issue but against the projects. We can't afford them right now in the down economy," Bourque said.
"Do you, in good conscience, have the right to go against the peoples' will? These tax increases must be removed," he said.
Mayor Kristin Lambert asked Bourque if the group, represented mostly by senior citizens at the Tuesday council meeting, had alternatives to the increases in mind? Increasing property taxes even higher in order to eliminate the franchise tax; reinstating the retail license fee or cutting $1 million in services from the city's operations were the options she capsulized.
"We don't have a position on those issues," Bourque said. "We want to work with the council and see if we can't reach some mutual understanding."
Other members of the group requested copies of the city's budgets for the past three years and offered to make their recommendations after studying the budget documents.
The council spent several months manipulating budget proposals - starting with a proposed budget that called for a 76 percent property tax hike and the elimination of a storm-sewer fee. Several budget committees staffed by city residents made proposals to the council before the final budget was drafted. Most of the committee recommendations called for higher tax increases than the council implemented.
Councilwoman Penny Atkinson had the strongest reprimand for residents who got involved in an effort to defeat the bond election only after the budget had been adopted.
"Many of you chose not to participate. A plan was made and put into motion," she said, suggesting that members of the group get involved in planning next year's city budget.
Lambert asked the group to submit its alternatives to the current budget in writing, and said the council will respond to the suggestions "as soon as possible."
Results of Tuesday's election could affect the city's budget, Lambert said. "If the tax initiatives pass they will severely restrict our alternatives. Some things won't even be an issue, we won't have a choice."
The mayor also said the council will consider the group's suggestion that a committee including the council and group members be organized.
Not all of the comments from residents at the meeting were aimed at rolling back city taxes. Kevin Ellis, chairman of Citizens for West Jordan's Future and chairman of the city's Master Plan Committee, gave council members a pep talk and called their work on the budget a "Herculean effort." He said the way to lower city taxes is to make the necessary infrastructure improvements that will attract commercial development.
Craig Dearing, chairman of the West Jordan Chamber of Commerce, said the city should leave the new taxes in place and consider lowering the franchise tax when sales tax revenues increase.