KAYSVILLE — A combination of growing needs and shrinking tools to meet those needs has resulted in a proposed property tax increase of 102 percent for city residents.
That increase, which affects only the city’s portion of property taxes, could mean the $140 now owed by a homeowner whose home is valued at $250,000, would double to around $280 a year, an increase of $11.66 a month, according to the city’s website.
Where once the city was 14th lowest of 15 Davis County cities in property tax rates levied, the increase would put it at 8th of 15.
At a day-long workshop session on April 26, the Kaysville City Council considered the growing city’s fire and police protection needs which, when put up against the limitations of a newly passed citizen initiative known as Prop 5, cannot be met by current revenues, according to Mayor Steve Hiatt.
“We went through what are the needs and the wants (for the city),” said Hiatt. “None of the wants made it through the discussion. The real takeaway is Proposition 5 and public safety.”
Two new police officers will be added to Kaysville’s force this year, in addition to three added a few years ago.
“The national average for police officers is one officer per 1,000 residents,” said Hiatt. “We have 23 full-time officers and we have almost 30,000 residents, so we are certainly behind the curve on police protection.”
The council opted last year to improve fire protection by having four people staff the fire station at all times.
In the past, only two have been in the station, said Hiatt, which is enough to send out an ambulance, but when a fire call comes in, the fire truck can’t go out until two more firefighters come in to the station.
Having four at the station has increased response times, said Hiatt.
“It’s enhanced the safety for our residents, essentially making it so that when a fire call comes in they can roll an engine immediately,” he said.
The increased fire staffing adds $255,000 to the city’s bills, the extra police protection adds $200,000.
In addition, the city began construction on a new police station several months ago. Payments on the $5.5 million bond for its construction add $425,000 annually to the city’s obligations for 17 years, according to Dean Storey, city finance director.
In 2013, $265,000 was transferred from the city’s electric utility revenue to the city’s general fund, which helped offset the cost of three new police officers.
Such a transfer is no longer possible after voters passed Proposition 5 last November, which requires funds from the utility be used only for electric utility needs.
Proponents of the measure acknowledged at the time that property taxes could go up, but said they would be offset by a reduction in power rates.
The city council has proposed a 2.21 percent reduction in power rates to make up for the $265,000 that will no longer be transferred to the general fund.
The electric fund must build a reserve to maintain high ratings with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, said Hiatt.
“We’re not quite where we need to be on that target, but we’re optimistic that the operating expenses will stay low and we can hit that target rate in the next 12 to 18 months,” said Hiatt.
An additional expense to the city came when a state auditor required that the city pay for its own electric usage even though it owns the electric company, something that adds $130,000 to the city’s bills.
Hiatt said the auditor had ruled that if public notice was given, the city wouldn’t have to pay for its electric utility needs. Prop 5, he said, makes that no longer possible because funds can only be used for direct operations to residents.
The group of Kaysville residents that sponsored Proposition 5 “adamantly deny” that the measure is responsible for the property tax increase, in a press release sent out by Margaret Brough.
Brough, representing Kaysville Citizens for Responsible Government, writes that the increase is not a result of the initiative’s passage.
“Rather,” she said, “these proposed tax increases are necessary to correct the decades-long poor management of the city’s finances. We have all the documentation to show the city’s use of electric fund monies were spent to purchase the Flint property for $5.3 million, without proper notice to the rate payers,” she wrote.
That property, purchased for economic development, has since been sold and the money returned to the power fund. It is the site for a future Smith’s Marketplace and other businesses.
The decisions on rates were to be finalized at last Tuesday’s meeting. A public hearing is planned for June 17, and a truth in taxation hearing, for Aug. 5.