Enoch residents gather signatures to oppose proposed property tax increase

Posted at 10:18 PM, Sep 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-26 00:18:28-04

ENOCH, Utah - Residents in Enoch are challenging the city council’s decision to raise property taxes, and the proposed hike would more than double the current rate.

Now, voters may be able to decide whether they’ll see a jump.

The group “Save Enoch” has been gathering signatures for several weeks, aiming for a referendum, which would put the proposed 113 percent tax increase to a public vote.

The city council approved the budget in August with a 5-4 vote. Enoch Mayor Robert Rasmussen said it’s a decision none of them wanted to make.

“Raising property tax is the last thing I would really want to do,” Rasmussen said. “But we’ve kind of found it necessary in order to kind of maintain the status quo.”

Rasmussen said for the past several years, the city has put off tax increases, instead relying on savings to fill in the gaps while hoping the local economy would improve. But now savings are dangerously low.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last few years to plan for the future,” Rasmussen said. “And make sure the citizens are receiving the services we feel like they’re asking for.”

But a spokesperson for the referendum group said they don’t feel like the city council is listening to them, and that’s the main drive behind their effort.

“The city government works for us,” Spokesperson Adam Hahn said. “And I think they need to be put back in check.”

The group has drafted their own budget, suggesting ways to save rather than raise taxes. Hahn said they’ve asked the council where they’ve considered cutting, but haven’t gotten clear answers.

Rasmussen said the city council has asked for public input at a number of public meetings, but low attendance has forced them to rely on making decisions based on what they think is in the public’s best interest. He said he respects the residents for their efforts, and he hopes that at least the effort will spark more public involvement.

The referendum group has collected more than 500 signatures, and they only need approximately 420 to force a vote. Hahn said they plan to turn in the petition on Oct. 5. The city recorder will verify the signatures, and if there are enough, the measure could show up on the 2015 ballot. The city also has the option of holding a special election to address the tax increase sooner.