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Across Utah, dozens of cities consider property tax hikes

Posted at 4:45 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 13:25:02-04

HERRIMAN, Utah  — Dozens of cities across the state are proposing property tax increases this year to pay for infrastructure improvements, parks, libraries and other government services.

In all, 55 cities, library boards, school districts, water conservancy districts and other entities have been sending out notices to taxpayers, informing them of upcoming "truth-in-taxation" hearings this year. The hearings, required under Utah law, inform residents what the taxes are for and how much the increase is.

"There’s a bit of pent up demand from many not doing it last year because of the pandemic and thinking that would be bad timing, which we would agree with," said Rusty Cannon, the president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

Some communities have gone as long as 30 years without any kind of property tax increase, Cannon said. Then, costs for services start to outpace budgets.

"They kick that can down the road because of maybe public pressure of elected officials just not wanting to make that decision in front of voters or taxpayers," he told FOX 13.

In the hearings, the case must be made to taxpayers to justify the cost. In some cases, communities are trying to get ahead of angry taxpayers by explaining it.

Holladay, which is proposing a 50% property tax levy across the city (which equates to a 5% increase for each home), has created a website and video series to explain to residents the need for road and other infrastructure improvements. For a home valued at around $700,000, it's a $204 a year increase.

In Bountiful, residents have been informed of a potential 36% property tax hike. For a home valued at around $434,000, it's about a $61 increase.

Cannon said he believed Utah's truth-in-taxation laws are a good thing because they require residents to be notified any time there is a proposed increase in property taxes.

"The taxpayers have every right to be angry and that’s the point of these notices, to notify them and say, 'Here’s what we’re going to do, here’s why we think it should be done,'" he said. "Oftentimes we see government entities making a good case for it, and sometimes they don’t."

Herriman residents were stunned to open their tax notices and find a jaw-dropping 687% increase. For a home valued at around $442,000 it was a sharp increase from $61.75 a year in 2019 to $486.20 in 2021.

"I’m sure that a lot of people felt sticker shock when they saw that number on their property tax statements," said Tami Moody, the assistant city manager for Herriman City.

Some confused and upset residents attended a recent truth-in-taxation hearing, but left a little more calm when it was explained it was not really a tax hike. Herriman recently left the Unified Fire Authority. That shifted the tax people paid for fire services from Salt Lake County to Herriman City itself.

Because it is technically a tax increase, the truth-in-taxation law required a public notice. But Moody insisted taxpayers are still paying the same amount they did for fire services — just not to Salt Lake County anymore. The tax bill to the county decreased, she said.

"Those funds are still being used for fire services," Moody said. "Starting next January, our new taxing entity — Herriman City Fire Service Area — will be established and able to collect funds."

Because of Utah's truth-in-taxation law, residents in Herriman will get yet another notice of that same 687% increase.

See the Utah Taxpayer's Association list of communities holding truth-in-taxation hearings here: