SALT LAKE CITY — As expected, Salt Lake City leaders have decided to place an $87 million bond on the fall ballot to leave it up to voters to decide whether to pay slightly more in property taxes in order to fund street repairs.
The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to place the question on the upcoming general election ballot.
If voters approve of the bond, it would replace two bonds expiring next year and raise taxes by up to $5 a year for the average Salt Lake City homeowner, according to city estimates.
If it passes, it would also be the third tax hike this year for Salt Lake City residents — after Salt Lake City leaders implemented a $33 million sales tax hike as a piece of their plan to fund needs including streets, police and affordable housing, and after Salt Lake County leaders, with the support of city leaders, enacted the once-failed $58 million sales tax hike to fund transportation projects.
To Spencer Nitz, who told the council he currently rents in the Capitol Hill neighborhood but has been in the market to buy, that series of tax hikes has him hesitant to actually purchase a home in Salt Lake City.
"You know, we're just seeing tax increases across the board, and the more I look into it, the less and less I'm inclined to purchase a house in the city," he said.
"I constantly hear the administration and the City Council complain about the lack of affordable housing in our city and in our county and turn around and then increase taxes on a very regular basis," Nitz continued. "It's pricing people right out of the city."
"I'd love to continue living in Salt Lake City, but at the rate that these increases are approved, I don't know in 15 or 20 years I'll be able to afford the property taxes on a house," he said.
But prior to the council's vote in a work session earlier Tuesday, staff members briefed the City Council on the results of public engagement and a third-party poll that found wide support for the bond.
In a poll conducted by Y2Analytics of 1,471 respondents, 72 percent indicated early support for the bond, but that support increased to 79 percent after more information was provided about the state of the city's streets.
A 2017 citywide pavement study showed nearly two-thirds of Salt Lake City's streets are in poor or worse condition. Paired with revenue from the $33 million sales tax hike, city officials recommended using the $87 million bond to help repair existing roads, and also bring the city's budget on a more sustainable trajectory.
"This is an opportunity after of ton of work ... to have a conversation with our community about a singular need, which is street reconstruction," Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said before the vote. "I'm glad we get to do this through a vote of the public."
Mendenhall noted the bond, if passed, would be "a piece" of the plan to put the city on a healthier path.
"It's such an enormous pothole of financial need ... that we need multiple streams of funding to even begin to get towards filling it," she said.
The City Council was also supportive of the county sales tax hike, welcoming any additional cash for road maintenance, but Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski — while she supported the city's own sales tax hike — was at odds with the Council over the county sales tax hike, saying it wasn't "the right time" amid a year of so many sales tax increases.
It's such an enormous pothole of financial need ... that we need multiple streams of funding to even begin to get towards filling it.
–Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall
Still, the council and other cities in the county supported the tax hike, leading county leaders to enact it this year.
Biskupski recommended the city's proposed $87 million bond alongside the $33 million sales tax hike in her State of the City address earlier this year.
In a prepared statement issued Tuesday night, Biskupski applauded City Council leaders for putting the bond on the ballot.
"Voters now have the ability to decide whether to pay a little now or pay much more later to improve our deteriorating roads," Biskupski said. "I urge residents to study the bond, make an informed decision and then vote on the future of Salt Lake City streets.
More information about the bond can be found on the city's website at FundingOurFutureSLC.com.