WEST VALLEY CITY — For about two months, West Valley City officials have thought their decision to maintain and improve city services hinged around a potential 3 percent property tax increase.

But council members were stunned to find out last week that almost overnight, that number has almost quadrupled to an 11.21 percent tax increase that won't bring the city any more money than they were initially seeking. Late-coming information about personal property devaluation and a judgment levy have offset the city's budget for its anticipated tax funds by more than $1 million.

"Oh my, oh my, that was a shocker," City Councilwoman Carolynn Burt said after seeing a presentation on the city's budget situation. "I'm still struggling with it."

City Manager Wayne Pyle told the council in April that if the city's portion of property taxes were raised about $12 a year for a $200,000 home, the city would receive about $600,000 in funds that could pay for new fire equipment, police training and two new parks employees.

But Tuesday, Pyle explained that a long-disputed tax appeal launched by a West Valley City company has been resolved, which will result in $1.1 million fewer tax dollars coming to the city. The levy is an anomaly that most likely won't be repeated next year, but to make up for that loss only, the city would have to raise its taxes by 6 percent.

"There is no sugar-coated or easy way to look at this," Pyle said. "If you think about it, we're not asking for more money than we originally thought. It's just the county took some away from us, and now we have to do something to make it up."

In addition to the levy, the value of personal property — all of the taxable equipment used by West Valley's businesses and organizations — has decreased by about $350,000. To make up for that loss, the city would have to raise taxes by about 2 percent.

If the council decides to move ahead with the city's proposed program improvements — such as allocating $36,000 in ongoing funds to the public works department to fund street light maintenance — then the total percentage of increase on the city's portion of residents' property tax bill would be a little more than 11 percent. For an average $200,000 home, that increase would be $37.17 more per year, a jump sufficient to give several council members pause.

"Philosophically, I hate taxes and I believe in limited government, even on the city level," said Councilman Mike Winder. "It's also an especially difficult year to consider tax increases because of the economic slump. I know residents and businesses in West Valley are feeling the pinch as everything is going up. It's a tough year to ask for more."

Winder and Burt say they expect the council to discuss the issue further to look for compromises the city might make. A public hearing on whether the council should raise the city's portion of the property tax will take place at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at West Valley City Hall, 3600 S. Constitution Blvd.


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