Thursday, August 9, 2012

Highland City raises property taxes despite residents' plea for alternatives

Highland City officials approved a $900,000 property tax increase during a truth-in-taxation hearing Tuesday night in the city council building.

The increase passed with a 3-2 vote. An amendment was added that gives the tax increase a five year sunset period.

Residents of Highland pleaded for alternatives to the increase, including a more business-friendly attitude from the city in order to broaden the sales tax base.

John Park, Highland city administrator, encouraged Highland residents to shop within the town to increase sales tax revenues. However, residents said the city isn't business-friendly, and the lack of commerce makes it difficult to spend money within the city.

A truth-in-taxation hearing is required by the state after a municipality approves a property tax increase. The state also requires certain disclosures before the hearing is held. A final decision is made during the meeting, in which the new tax rate can be reduced or eliminated, but not increased.

Residents in Highland have resisted commercial development in the pursuit of a neighborhood-style city, Scott Smith, a member of the Highland City Council, responded.

The U.S. economy's recovery isn't guaranteed, said Royce Van Tassell, associate vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. "Taking money from the residents of your taxpayers is not a good way to keep that recovery going," he said.

City officials laid blame for the added costs on public safety to increase staffing in Cedar Hills and Alpine. Expenses per household in Highland rose by 58.6 percent since 2000 to $2,054.

Highland’s expenses per household have seen a 5.9 percent compound annual growth since 2000 while revenue rose 4.11 percent. This could mean the city’s expenses are growing at a faster pace than its generated revenues. Deseret News