Amid verbal sniping, raised voices and sometimes terse accusations, the West Bountiful City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night for a franchise tax - the city's first tax increase in more than 10 years.
The council will determine the percentage of the franchise tax in the next few weeks, but councilmen say they expect the tax to be about 2 percent of residents' Mountain Bell, Mountain Fuel and Utah Power & Light bills."Let's either do this right or just annex into Bountiful or Woods Cross," said councilman Lynn Kenison, who proposed the resolution calling for the acceptance of a $622,420 city budget with the addition of the franchise tax.
"I can't believe the mentality we're using of just getting by year after year," Kenison said during the heated public hearing and subsequent city council meeting. "When are we going to start running this city like a real business?"
Kenison told the Deseret News he proposed the tax increase because the city has "just basically survived" over the past years. He said the discontinuation of federal grants has cut the city's budget by 20 percent, yet no efforts have been made to make up the money and the city has suffered because of decreased ser-vices.
Mayor Jerry Thompson adamantly disagreed with Kenison, as well as Bruce Talbot and Claude Vaughn - the other two councilmen who voted for the tax.
"If you want to increase your taxes . . . I think you're making a very big mistake," he said.
Thompson said the budget he prepared was more than adequate and "meets every criteria" without the tax increase.
"We're talking about being frugal, and the city has not been hurt because of that," he said. "When you decide to go for this franchise tax, we've got to tell the people and there will be problems."
Kenison said he believes most people will not be pleased with the new tax, but he sees no alternative. "What city can say they've gone for at least 10 years without a tax increase?" he said.
Councilman Wendell Wild said a franchise tax is often perceived as a panacea and suggested the council wait to look at other options. Kenison, however, said the city had waited long enough.
Thompson and Wild warned the council that a franchise tax might jeopardize negotiations with individuals considering economic development in the city. Talbot became outraged and asked the mayor why the council had not been informed about such negotiations.
"I want to know. I don't want to be told any more to wait because I haven't been on the council long enough!" Talbot yelled at the mayor. "If you expect me to vote like you'd like me to then tell me, by gad!"
After the vote, Thompson asked the councilmen to write letters to the community explaining the passage of the tax and also asked them to meet with officials from Phillips Petroleum Company.
Thompson expressed concern about the effects the tax may have on Phillips. The company had previously told the council that if the city passed a franchise tax it would move its meters to Woods Cross so that it would not be subject to the tax.