Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Richard Piatt explores why, for many Utahns, property taxes are going up while home values are falling. Lee Gardner, Salt Lake County assessor, and Royce Van Tassell, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, discuss this phenomenon.
Also, wolves have been sighted in Utah again. Leonard Blackham, the Utah commissioner of Agriculture and Food explains why Utah should exterminate them, and Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, argues that wolves should be protected.
Segment 1: Property Values and Property Taxes
In the midst of a sluggish economy, taxes are going up in many parts of Utah. It's a perfect storm for property owners, especially in Salt Lake County.
The cost of running government is forcing all of us to dig deeper into our pockets, even as our property values go down. Sunday Edition is joined by Lee Gardner, the Salt Lake County assessor, and the vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, Royce Van Tassell.
A property owner can take action if their value appears too high on their property tax notice.
"The one thing that people can do is look at their tax notice and see if the value represents fair market value as of Jan. 1, 2010. If they think it does not, then they should appeal it to the county board of equalization," explains Gardner.
Citizens can attend "Truth in Taxation" hearings, but to make a difference many people need to attend.
"There has to be a huge influx of people attending," Gardner says. He says last year it had an effect in Riverton. "Conversely in Salt Lake City last year, there was one person who attended the 'Truth in Taxation' hearing," Gardner describes. "One person is not going to have any effect whatsoever on the budget."
Residents can also shape long-term policy.
"The most important thing is to look carefully at the candidates and let people know that they are not willing to pay more for fewer services. People in Salt Lake City, in particular, are facing a perfect storm. Taxpayers stepped up and said we are willing to pay for the public safety bond and they are being slapped in the face by saying we want another $2 million tax increase just in Salt Lake City," explains Van Tassell. "I think the possibility of a taxpayer revolt is very real."
Segment 2: Wolves in Utah
After years hidden in the wilderness of the news cycle, wolves are now back in the news these days. Two wolves have been shot following Utah's most serious outbreak of wolf sightings and livestock attacks in at least 80 years.
On July 23, a sheepherder in Rich County trapped and shot a female wolf. In the previous two weeks, the same wolf surfaced three times -- stalking a herd of sheep, killing a calf and then killing several sheep. Earlier this month, another sheepherder killed a male wolf after it attacked two sheep in Cache County near the Utah-Idaho border.
Wolf sightings have been reported in Utah for years, but these are the first documented attacks on livestock since 1930 when Utah ranchers exterminated them.
Since people re-introduced wolves to Yellowstone in the 1990s, experts on both sides of the wolf debate predicted they'd eventually expand their range to Utah. One side welcomes them; the other side detests them.
Sunday Edition is joined by men on each side of the debate: Leonard Blackham, the Utah commissioner of Agriculture and Food, and Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.
Can wolves and people coexist in Utah?
"I don't think they can. Our population has increased so much in the last few years and just the amount of real wilderness, at least the kind of wilderness that they exist in, just isn't here in Utah," says Blackham. "So we think that with the livestock industry, with the wildlife, the sportsmen, hunting and simply the amount of recreation going on today, it just doesn't really make sense to have wolves in our area."
Robinson has a different opinion. "Certainly they can, they co-exist in other states and we do have a habitat in Utah that is suitable for wolves, not as much as in Montana for example, but there is good habitat here for wolves. And they will be coming through no matter what and eventually they will re-colonize Colorado and other states and they will move through Utah," Robinson says.
Ranchers tend to view wolves as pests, but not everyone agrees. "They are very intelligent beings, they have emotional lives, they have family ties and they perform an important ecological service for our ecosystems that we also depend on as human beings," explains Robinson.
Senate Bill 36 calls for the ability of the state to shoot a wolf if it has been identified as causing a problem.
Blackham believes this is the only method for dealing with wolves in Utah. "It is going to have to be dealt with that way, if we have wolves here they are going to get in trouble. I think that the amount of livestock we have and the way we are ranging our livestock, if they're here they are going to get in trouble," explains Blackham. "That's about the only solution."
Blackham believes that wolves are going to cause a problem with our livestock industry. Robinson disagrees.
"There are other ways, non-lethal methods for trying to prevent livestock depredation," says Robinson. "I would prefer to see those methods employed to the extent practicable and then if a problem remains, according to the state wildlife management plan for wolves, wolves can be removed. That's what happens in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana... but a wholesale campaign to eliminate them, we did that 80 years ago, and I certainly do not advocate that we try to do that again."