City council approves 13.4 percent property tax increase
Aug 28, 2018 04:31PM
By Jana Klopsch
Residents shared their concerns regarding the proposed increase in property taxes. (Joshua Wood, City Journals)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
The Cottonwood Heights City Council held an open house and public meeting on Aug. 14 to share information and hear input from residents before voting on a proposed property tax increase of up to 22 percent. In the official vote the following day, the City Council approved a 13.4 percent increase.
The proposed 22 percent hike was the maximum amount the council could have approved. It could have voted on anything from no increase at all to the full amount.
While some residents participating in the public meeting offered their support for the increase, the majority of voices expressed disapproval of the council’s proposal. The reasons most cited for opposing the tax increase involved the effect higher taxes could have on senior citizens living on fixed incomes and the size of the proposed increase.
Some residents expressed their support. “Cottonwood Heights City is a small chunk of our tax bill,” said resident Bob Jacobs. “I think we’re getting a bargain for our money.”
Others in attendance, citing an open house held earlier in 2018 highlighting community preferences for new open spaces, asked that more funds be allocated to parks, trails and other open spaces in the community. “Please fund open spaces,” said resident Steve Sorweid. “We are falling behind other east bench communities like Sandy and Draper when it comes to parks and trails.”
City council members spoke after public feedback had concluded.
“As a new council member, it’s been eye-opening to see how difficult it is to go through the budget process,” said Councilmember Tali Bruce.
The council responded to comments from several residents on the cost of the new Cottonwood Heights City Hall. “We were spending $300,000 to $500,000 a year in rent, and that was just going to keep going up,” said Councilmember Scott Bracken. “Over the long term, this building will be, I think, a net cost savings.”
“A 22 percent tax increase is significant. It’s real money to everyone,” said Councilmember Mike Shelton. “Hopefully nothing we said today downplays the fact that we understand that. At the same time, the services that we provide, we think, are really significant.”
Shelton said the process included searching for services that could be reduced without seriously impacting residents. “We found some places where we could do that, and we found some places where we did not feel that reducing the service was in the best interest of the residents,” he said.
The council stressed that is was not seeking a 22 percent increase in spending, stating that the tax increase represented an accumulation of costs over the years. Their options, Shelton said, were to cut services further, spend the city’s savings or increase taxes. The city’s proposed budget includes an increase in total spending from $19.6 million to $19.8 million.
“The reason we have truth in taxation is to allow you to come and comment,” Mayor Mike Peterson said. “You have made a lot of great comments, and we have taken notes. Some of you will get a call back from staff to clarify a couple things.”
Since some residents could not attend the open house prior to the public meeting, Shelton proposed an additional 30 minutes of time after the public meeting for people to ask questions and share their opinions directly with council members and city staff.
The council met the following day, on Aug. 15, and voted to approve a smaller tax increase of 13.4 percent. The new rate takes effect when property taxes come due in November.