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City Complains that Housing for Homeless Vets Would be Tax-Free

City Complains that Housing for Homeless Vets Would be Tax-Free



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SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) -- The city says it doesn't object to putting a roof over the heads of homeless military veterans, but the project will be exempt from property taxes.

"No one is opposed to helping chronically homeless vets find a place to live, but it doesn't have to be in South Salt Lake," Councilman Bill Anderson said.

"We have the lowest household incomes along the Wasatch Front, and now our tax rate is in the top three," he said.

Utah's Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund is paying $2.3 million for a 7-acre property that is part of a bankruptcy case.

The land, adjacent to the county jail, will be turned into apartments for homeless veterans, a status that would exempt it from city property taxes. Thirty percent of South Salt Lake is also off the tax rolls. "The homeless facility is not my major concern," Mayor Bob Gray said in a letter to the Loan Fund. "My concern is how this proposed tax-exempt development adds to the plight that is consuming the city of South Salt Lake."

Besides the jail, South Salt Lake has a county garbage station, Utah Transit Authority headquarters, Granite School District offices and another 100-unit project to help the homeless. "We're just trying to do the best we can to meet the needs of people, particularly those who have served our country and protected our freedoms," said Gordon Walker, state housing director.

The city has relied on sales taxes to make up for paltry property-tax revenue. But a new law changed the formula, and South Salt Lake lost $2 million. As a result, property taxes were increased. "The tax issue is very significant," Walker acknowledged. "We've been exploring ways to help meet their needs. We're not trying to make it so one community bears the burden."

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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