Salt Lake City Council members admit they'd rather do the limbo under last year's certified tax rate, thank you.
In a year where tax limitation has become the "in" buzzword, it just doesn't look good to raise taxes.But the real reason encouraging the contortionists' dance is the prospect of hosting a dreaded truth-in-taxation hearing.
A three-year-old law requires government agencies to hold the hearing if this year's certified tax rate is higher than last year's. Based on complicated formulas, if there's sufficient growth in the property tax rate, officials can hike taxes slightly without triggering the dreaded hearing.
The City Council doesn't want to be the only government entity in the valley to hold one of those "real nasty" truth-in-taxation hearings. The hearings are somewhat pointless, as they aren't scheduled until after the tax rate is set, which works out to be at least one month after the city's budget has been carved in stone.
Hosting such a hearing, this year especially, could spell political disaster.
"If we're the only government holding one this year - and it looks like we will be - everyone who is mad at the state, everyone who is mad at the county and everyone who is mad at the federal government will come here," said Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk. "This will be their only opportunity to vent. And most of them will be from District 6." Kirk represents District 6, comprising the city's east-bench neighborhoods.
"I think the perception that everybody else is holding the line, and the city is not - even though it is only five cents - is unfortunate," she said.
The City Council considered raising the library tax rate by an average of $4.20 on a $70,000 home, in order to fund library's capital improvements on an accelerated five-year plan.
Councilwoman Florence Bittner said spreading improvements over a 10-year schedule would mean the libraries would need more work by the time the schedule is completed. But Bittner, and her council colleagues, aren't sure they want to raise taxes to fund the accelerated schedule.
Even with the 10-year plan, the library is asking for a tax increase that will equal an average of about $1.68 on a $70,000 increase. Officials think that isn't enough of an increase to bring angry residents storming City Hall. The council, like its colleagues in other valley cities, listens through countless long, sometimes heated public hearings on a variety of issues every year. Admittedly, hearings on license fees, mosquito abatement and vacating an alley aren't the stuff of blockbuster bestsellers.
But, anything, even the tedium, is much better than a truth-in-taxation hearing.
Last year, even though the library's tax rate increased slightly, the rest of the city's budget didn't increase, and the combination remained under the certified tax rate.