Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hundreds attend hearing on 50 percent tax increase in Orem

After eight hours of a public hearing for truth in taxation, the Orem City council voted 4-3 to approve a compromise property tax increase of $1.7 million or nearly half of the proposed $3.345 million increase.  City staff will have to make up the remainder of the $3.3 million shortfall through cuts in budgeted service vehicles, a one-time take from the city's reserves and no employee raises.

The property tax increase proposed by city staff is intended for the most part to cover a $2.8 million debt payment to UTOPIA, an interlocal consortium of cities seeking to provide residents with fiber optic networks throughout their cities. Since its inception nearly 10 years ago UTOPIA has operated in the red. According to a recently released audit by the State Legislative auditor, UTOPIA has millions of dollars in bond indebtedness, has been grossly mismanaged and has gone against state open meetings law. Orem is contractually obligated to help payoff $185 million of that indebtedness until 2040.

UTOPIA is not the only subject on the tax increase list. There is also a great need for new emergency vehicles, cost of living increases in some utilities, the need for more high-tech equipment in the city offices, and more.

Many residents brought up old and continuing issues such as the continual maintenance costs on the Center

For Story, the underground parking debacle at Midtown Village and other financial missteps.

The one promise city council members did get from many of those attending is that they will remember how they voted come the next election.  Daily Herald