TAYLORSVILLE — The City Council shot down a proposed 15 percent property tax increase Wednesday night and then changed its mind.
After voting against a tax increase, Councilman Ernest Burgess opted to change his vote, saying it's the only way to fund critical safety and maintenance projects. It was the swing vote in a pair of 3-2 decisions, first against the tax increase and then for it.
"I didn't want to raise taxes," Burgess said after the vote. "It's a lot of money, and there's a real concern there. But I realized that if we don't do that, we wouldn't be able to maintain (the city) or get anything done this year."
The 15 percent tax increase is expected to generate $615,000 — enough to cover construction of a decorative safety wall along 4100 South between Redwood Road and 1300 West, as well as increase the maintenance budget to clean up weeds along city streets.
The property tax increase will add about $29 per year on an average $197,000 home, city officials said.
Also Tuesday, the City Council voted 4-1 to contract with the Unified Police Department for all police services beginning July 1. No police personnel will lose their jobs in the change, and the level of police service in the city will continue to be set by the City Council, city officials said.
In addition, Taylorsville will save more than $500,000 in the 2012-13 budget by joining Unified police.
The city's budget also included joining the Salt Lake Valley Fire District beginning Jan. 1, 2013. By joining the fire district, Taylorsville will be able to fund at least nine additional fire/EMS personnel, a new fire station and a rebuild of Station 117.
The property tax increase came as a surprise to several at the meeting. The council previously rejected Mayor Russ Wall's proposed 40 percent tax increase, and no tax increase was on the table at its previous meeting.
But the wall on 4100 South is a safety issue and needed to be addressed, Burgess said. The landscape slopes on the east side of the road, into the backyards of residences on Alder Road. City officials say vehicles have ended up in those backyards.
"We need to stop that," Burgess said.
The wall project already had been put off for several years, he said, "and we could not put it off another year."
The additional funding for maintenance was a last-minute proposal from Councilwoman Dama Barbour, who said she's "dismayed" by the weeds along city streets.
"I think our economic development depends on (cleaning up the city)," Barbour said.
"There are several places in the city that, in my opinion don't meet our city standards," added Councilwoman Kristie Overson, who, like Barbour, supported the tax increase on both votes. "When we have major thoroughfares or roads that are out of control with weeds, it doesn't bode well for Taylorsville. It doesn't make our city look good at all."
City administrator John Inch Morgan said the city would need to triple the amount of money budgeted for maintenance in order to keep up with the weeding.
Wall encouraged the City Council to approve at least a 15 percent tax increase to fund the wall project and the street-scape maintenance.
"We've proposed modest tax increases every year, and they've been turned down every year," Wall told the City Council during the meeting. "Now we're looking at larger tax increases because we've just kicked it down the road."
Overson said it was time for Taylorsville to "bite the bullet and move forward."
"The only way we're going to make this happen is to find additional money," she said.
Councilmen Larry Johnson and Jerry Rechtenbach voted against the tax increase.