The 38 people who made comments at a Tuesday evening budget hearing confirmed that residents and businesses both are as divided on budget issues as the City Council was when it passed the tentative budget, 3-2.
A number of people at the hearing, which was held in the West Jordan Middle School auditorium, were also upset by the way Mayor Bob Roberts conducted the meeting.Former Councilman Neil Andersen was the first to take exception to a three-minute time limit speakers were asked to observe. Andersen and Roberts engaged in a verbal exchange about the time limit that drew hisses and cat calls from the audience of about 150 people. About a dozen people stormed out after Roberts, an elementary school principal, insisted those in attendance refrain from guffawing and clapping in reaction to comments made by other residents.
If I didn't control this meeting, you wouldn't have had a chance to express your feelings," Roberts said in reaction to the criticism.
Councilwoman Kristin Lambert said the City Council has spent more than 12 hours listening to comments from residents during a recent series of five neighborhood budget meetings. The three-minute limit was imposed for the first time Tuesday, she said.
The results of a survey conducted among the residents who attended the neighborhood meetings showed 54 people gave some degree of support to the capital-improvements plan that was supported by the council, 4-1, while 42 opposed the proposal, Lambert said.
Most of those addressing the council opposed the construction of a municipal swimming pool, which is mentioned in the capital-improvements plan. Reactions to plans for major road-widening projects were mixed, with developers and businessmen generally more supportive of those improvements than homeowners.
The majority of respondents did not support a proposed property tax increase or a proposed 6 percent utility franchise tax, although 80 people said, in the survey, they did not want city service levels cut to match declining revenues expected during the coming year.
There's no alternative that allows us to keep services and not raise taxes," said Lambert, who voted against the tentative budget proposal because of the level of property tax increases it proposes.
The property tax increase proposed is 76.4 percent. A 6 percent utility franchise tax is also proposed, but the elimination of the city's retail license fee and storm-sewer fee would mitigate the effects of the tax increases. Councilman Harvey Cahoon said the average net increase would be less than 10 percent per household.
City Manager Ron Olson said the average West Jordan household would see a $69.75 increase for the year if all of the proposed changes are made.
Doug Headden, retail operation manager for Mountain Fuel Supply Co., said he opposes the franchise tax proposal, saying it would be a discriminatory tax, and that his company did not want to play the role of tax collector.
Robert Ladenburger, administrator of Holy Cross Jordan Valley Hospital, said he supports the franchise tax, which would be dedicated to capital improvements, because the capital projects plan is needed - especially for improved transportation routes through the city.
Former Mayor Dennis Randall, now a part-time police dispatcher and representative of the city's employees association, said a 3 percent raise for city employees would still leave the city's police officers among the lowest paid along the Wasatch Front. Andersen responded by saying retirement benefits, salaries and city contributions for health insurance should not be raised.