West Jordan Mayor Bob Roberts, protesting a tax increase, suddenly resigned Wednesday. Nevertheless, work on the city budget for the coming year will continue unimpeded, Acting Mayor Kristin Lambert said Thursday.
Roberts cast the only dissenting vote when the council decided late Tuesday to raise property taxes 40 percent during fiscal 1989, which begins July 1. Eleven hours after the tax hike was approved, Roberts surprised everyone at City Hall by submitting his resignation, saying the decision to raise taxes was contrary to the feelings of the "overwhelming majority of the citizens."Roberts said in his letter of resignation he is also against a proposed 6 percent utility franchise tax.
Lambert said the council's budget planning schedule suffered no setback with the mayor's resignation because the mayor did not support the unanimous decision among the council members to approve the tax hike. "What we lost was the one dissenting vote," she said.
The council has plans to adopt a fiscal 1989 budget Tuesday. Roberts' resignation should not change those plans, she said.
Roberts said Tuesday night he supported the tentative budget approved by the council May 3 that included 76 property tax increases - much higher than the 40 percent hike that prompted his resignation Wednesday. But, he said, the tentative budget was approved by the council (by a split 3-2 vote) before a series of five neighborhood meetings were held where he learned what the "pulse" of the city residents was.
The tentative budget included cuts in city services and the implementation of a capital projects plan that would have been financed with a franchise tax. The council vote Tuesday dedicated all of the property tax hike to capital improvements and left unresolved the fate of the franchise tax proposal.
"They (city residents) said `It's a great plan, but we can't afford it at this point,' " Roberts said. "It's out of sync with the state, with Salt Lake County and West Jordan."
Roberts said Wednesday he was so convinced property taxes should not be increased that he resigned because he could not stay in office and have to sign the budget. "For the good of the council, the people of West Jordan and (city) employees, I just cannot sign that," he said. Staying in office and having Lambert
sign the budget as mayor pro tem, which she has been since January, was not an option he could live with either, he said.
City Manager Ron Olson and all four members of the council - Paul Henderson, Harvey Cahoon, Dave Plouzek and Lambert, all said they had no inkling on or before Tuesday Roberts would resign. Roberts said he made the decision after the property tax increase was voted in Tuesday at about 11 p.m.
Even though he cast the only dissenting vote Tuesday, Roberts said he would not be surprised if the council changed its plans again before the final budget is approved. "I would not be surprised whatever they do," he said.
The council met in emergency session Tuesday at 5 p.m., where they considered Roberts' letter of resignation, then unanimously voted to accept it and declare the mayor's post vacant.
The council now has 30 days to choose a replacement that will serve the remaining 1 1/2 years of Roberts' four-year term.
Lambert was named mayor pro tem in January as a routine assignment on the council that is passed to a different council member each year. She conducted the Tuesday meeting and will be the acting mayor until someone is appointed to the post to finish Roberts' term. The appointment process should not take as long as 30 days, she said.
The bulk of next Tuesday's council meeting is dedicated to budget work, but the council decided to spend some time deciding how it will ask mayoral candidates to apply for the job.
If a member of the council is chosen to fill the vacancy, the council would then have to choose someone to fill the vacant council seat, said City Attorney Stephen Homer.
In his letter of resignation, Roberts said his experience as mayor has been both exceptional and educational.