AMERICAN FORK — With the economy sputtering and the price of oil affecting the cost of many everyday purchases, American Fork residents might have another pocketbook problem — higher property taxes.

The city will hold a public hearing on Aug. 5 to give residents the chance to voice their concerns over what is estimated to be a 14 percent property-tax increase.

"That is an awful lot at one time," Rayetta Bate, who has lived in American Fork since 1976, said upon finding out about the proposal. "I think for some people it is going to be a real hardship."

Residents will get a chance to give input, but it will be the council's decision on Aug. 12 as to whether or not the increase will be imposed. The council discussed several different options as it looked at the city's needs for the coming year.

The increase, which would cost a homeowner approximately $38 more than last year for a house worth $220,000, was lower than the numbers that had been thrown around a few weeks ago. In late June, the council met and discussed increases up to 50 percent, but realized the strain that it would put on residents.

"Of the citizens who have talked to me, I don't think they can tolerate any tax increase," said Councilman Rick Storrs. "At least 100 have talked to me, and they were all against it."

During their work session this week, council members said they need the increased revenue to pay for the salary of a computer technician for the library, to provide $250,000 to fix roads that have been affected by the installation of the new pressurized irrigation system and to keep $348,000 in federal grant money that was awarded for construction of the Art Dye Trail.

The city will also put four bond proposals on the ballot this fall, which will allow citizens to decide the future of other projects in the city. The bond proposals include $6 million to build a bridge and two trails at 1120 North and improve several other roads throughout the city, spending $2.4 million to improve Art Dye Park and Beehive Road, and raising funds to expand the cemetery and buy land for open space.

If the council approves the 14 percent increase, and citizens approve all four of the bonds in November, a $220,000 home owner would see an increase of close to $90.

Mayor Heber Thompson reminded the council that these increases would not go to pay for the pressurized irrigation system. That will be paid for by monthly fees alone. But he reminded the council that those fees will be another increase on the citizens.

Residents said they know that the city leaders can't change the economy, but the increase in property taxes could be here to stay.

"They can't fix the gas prices, they go up and down and that is cyclical hopefully, but the 14 percent increase will never go away," said Lynn Hunter, who has lived in American Fork for nearly his whole life.

The city will be sending out a mailer giving details about the different proposals within the coming weeks.


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