SALT LAKE CITY — Multiple tax and fee increases are on the table as Salt Lake Country tries to address an ongoing structural imbalance of $33 million, county leaders said Tuesday.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is proposing a 17.5 percent property tax increase that would increase the property tax bill on a $238,000 home by $64 per year. An additional proposed hike to secure the county library system would be worth $5.9 million and would tack on an extra $16 to the typical property tax.
“It’s time for a tax increase,” Corroon said. “We’ve made cuts over the last several years. Now if we cut, it’s primarily people. If we close rec centers and close libraries and close other facilities, we’re cutting people as well and we don’t want to do that.”
Both Corroon and Salt Lake County chief financial officer Darren Casper said they have heard from various department heads who say they cannot cut any more.
The departments and elected officials were asked how they could impose 10 percent across-the-board cuts.
We haven't had a tax increase for about 12 years, you need tax revenue to run government. The very last thing I would propose or condone is a tax increase. Is it inevitable this time? I think it is.
–Councilman Steve DeBry
“The response to that was shock,” Casper said. “For example, the response from the sheriff’s office was we would have to lose so many employees that we would have no alternative but to close the Oxbow Jail.”
All the requests for funding and tax increases have left some council members with sticker shock.
“I’m not just going to swallow everything hook, line and sinker like the mayor proposed,” Councilman Steve DeBry said.
DeBry said his priority is to ensure there are no cuts in funding to law enforcement or prosecutors.
“We haven’t had a tax increase for about 12 years, you need tax revenue to run government,” DeBry said. “The very last thing I would propose or condone is a tax increase. Is it inevitable this time? I think it is.”
DeBry said the question is how much that increase ends up being.
“Some people are going to feel some pain,” he said. “Everybody’s not going to get everything they want."
Corroon believes the economy has improved enough for the county to support an increase.
“After the recession now is finally dwindling, I think it’s time to do a tax increase,” he said.
On top of the proposed increases, the county is mulling a $3 increase in the landfill’s tipping fees, or fees per ton of waste that come into the landfill.
“We’ll still be below where our master plan calls for it, but customers will see an increase,” Public Works Director Patrick Leary said.
A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11, aimed at giving people their say about the possible tax increases.