A tentative budget that includes municipal service cuts and some fee and tax switching - including an 85 percent property tax hike - passed Tuesday night by a 3-2 City Council vote.
Components of the tentative budget were voted on separately. Councilman Dave Plouzek was the only member to vote against the budget's capital-projects plan; and Plouzek and Councilwoman Kristin Lambert voted against the general fund portion because it calls for significant property tax increases to offset declining sales tax revenues.Councilmen Harvey Cahoon and Paul Henderson and Mayor Bob Roberts voted for those two portions, and the entire council voted its support for proposed enterprise, trust and agency funds in the budget.
In a nutshell, the budget would change the city's revenue structure by dropping a $4-per-month storm-sewer fee charged to each household, drop a 0.5 percent retail license fee, nicknamed the West Jordan sales tax, implement a 6 percent utility franchise tax and hike property taxes about 85 percent.
The franchise tax is to be wholly dedicated to capital projects.
Though cost increases to West Jordan residents are predicted to be minimal when all of the tax and fee juggling is taken into consideration, according to City Manager Ron Olson, the City Council hopes to head off criticism of the proposed tax hike through a budget-education campaign that will precede a June 14 public hearing on the budget.
The council got a taste of that criticism when a handful of residents bad-mouthed council members, collectively and individually, for the plan to raise taxes.
Though no time had been scheduled to take comments from the public, the council ended up spending more than an hour listening to concerns about the budget that ranged from general questions about tax rates to specific queries, such as the age of the public safety department's dispatch console.
Dennis Randall, the city's former mayor now a part-time police dispatcher for the city and a spokesman for the city's employees association, told the council the employees are grateful the budget includes a 3 percent pay raise and a 11/2 percent benefits hike. But the employees oppose a proposal in the budget that would cut three firefighters from the public safety department, thus eliminating fire department response to medical emergencies, he said.
Chuck Simoncini, representing National Semiconductor, the city's largest business, said the proposed franchise tax could cost his company $26,000 a year. The company is willing to pay that because of the economic gains the city would realize, he said, but the property tax would almost double the company's current annual $180,000 obligation and would not be offset any by the elimination of the retail license fee.
Non-residents who spend money in West Jordan help pay the city's municipal expenses when they shop in West Jordan and pay the retail license fee, he said, but a franchise tax and increased property taxes must be entirely borne by the city's homeowners and businesses.