Adobe Stock
About 90,000 Salt Lake County residents won't end up seeing a new charge on their property tax bills next year. But that doesn't mean it won't come later.

SALT LAKE CITY — About 90,000 Salt Lake County residents won't end up seeing a new charge on their property tax bills next year.

But that doesn't mean it won't come later.

The Greater Salt Lake Municipal Services District — the new agency formed in 2015 to provide services to Salt Lake County's metro townships and unincorporated areas — decided last week against starting to collect property taxes to help fund a backlog of road repairs and maintenance.

At least not yet.

Faced with pushback from some local leaders and residents concerned about a mounting list of tax hikes, the board of trustees voted to delay possible implementation of the new property tax charge until 2020 — but the service district's board members were clear it wasn't a question of whether the tax hike would happen, but when.

"Eventually, we're going to have to do it," said Kearns Metro Township Mayor Kelly Bush, a member of the service district's board of trustees. "But I don't think this year is the time to do it."

During last week's meeting, Bush argued against approving a 2019 tentative budget with the proposed tax hike, and instead lobbied for more community engagement and education before considering it again for 2020.

"I think people are absolutely overwhelmed with what taxes are coming at them," Bush said, referencing tax hikes from property value increases. "I think they've been hit hard."

She noted elderly residents on fixed incomes have been feeling especially "panicky."

"Maybe we could approach this differently and relook at it next year," Bush said.

Also not off the table next year is a new stormwater fee estimated to be about $8 a month — a fee that's up to the metro townships' officials and the Salt Lake County Council to decide whether to levy.

If approved, the property tax hike would give certain Salt Lake County residents — those living in metro townships and in unincorporated county areas — a brand-new property tax bill, on top of taxes already paid, estimated to be about $193 a year for a home with a taxable value of $272,000, according to the service district's estimates.

Last week, the service district's board made a slew of cuts to the 2019 budget to make up for the estimated $3 million of revenue the tax hike would have raked in. The board shifted $2.8 million previously allocated to the district's capital improvement budget, either from unused funds or previously canceled projects.

The board also slimmed down a $19.3 million request from the district's public works department to about $14.8 million — still about double the department's previous year's budget. However, the board approved additional money in an effort to start funding needed infrastructure projects.

Additionally, the tentative budget the board adopted also contemplates the property tax hike — as well as the stormwater fee — will pass and start bringing in revenue in 2020.

But even then, the municipal service district will be functioning on a budget with a downward slope.

7 comments on this story

That's because even if both the property tax hike and the stormwater fee are approved, the service district is still projected to balance its budget by pulling revenue out of its rainy day fund over the next five years.

"We're structurally out of balance," said Bart Barker, the district's general manager, on Monday, adding that the district will be "hard pressed" to continue on the same trajectory beyond those five years.

"That means some decisions need to be made down the road," Barker added, noting that the district may need to also look into implementing a utility tax. "But that's for a future discussion."