Millard County is withholding taxes collected for the Central Utah Project in 1988 and may continue to do so until it has a better idea of what it will get for its investment.
The county, like five others south of Utah County that are part of the CUP's Central Utah Water Conservancy District, has been paying taxes to the CUP since 1968 but has yet to see any project features built to deliver irrigation water there as has been the plan since 1965.The message from Congress last year was clear that it would not allocate money for a central Utah irrigation project. Non-traditional financing of the irrigation system has been considered by members of Utah's congressional delegation and sought for fiercely by conservancy district leaders, but none of the recent actions has sent comforting signals to the elected officials of the CUP's southern counties.
"One of the things that's brought us before you is a great deal of frustration," Millard County Commission Chairman Mike Styler told the conservancy district board Thursday. Styler wanted the board's permission for the county to retain the past year's taxes collected for the CUP until there are more definitive answers about the eventual return the county will get on its CUP investment. Styler also asked the board to place in escrow taxes paid under protest by the Intermountain Power Association.
As of Thursday's meeting, the county had turned over only 1.1 percent of the $1,056,506 it owes the district for 1988 taxes.
"We have the responsibility to collect (the taxes)," said Gerald K. Maloney, the district's finance committee chairman. "We don't have the authority to tell you yes." It would be Millard County's responsibility to decide whether it would pay the assessment it has collected, Maloney said, adding that the district would follow the advice of its legal counsel and not escrow taxes collected from IPA either.
Styler said it would be Tuesday before he could discuss with the rest of the County Commission whether to pay the 1988 assessment or continue to withhold it.
After the meeting, Styler said the county's thoughts of getting out of the district weren't exactly encouraged during a Monday meeting with Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, but the congressman said he will try to get support in Congress for the county to do a water project of its own if the county officials ask him to do it, Styler said.
"He never came right out and said `withdraw,' but he said there should be some recompense" for the county's investment in the project, Styler said.
The Millard County Commission has also heard talk from Washington about a proposal to cash out the southern counties, Styler said, so plans to include an irrigation feature for them in the CUP can be abandoned.
Millard County has paid more than $1.8 million to the conservancy district altogether.
"We wouldn't be satisfied to leave with just the tax dollars," he said. "We would want the lost opportunity cost."