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PROVO — Utah County Commissioners passed a county budget increase after a marathon meeting Tuesday.
Commissioners approved the increase with commissioners Tanner Ainge and Nathan Ivie voting in favor and Commissioner Bill Lee voting against. Commissioners cut just under $500,000 from the budget at the last minute, bringing the approved budget to $19,312,205.
A previous budget had proposed a 69% property tax increase to cover that budget increase, but due to the last-minute cuts, the exact tax rate had yet to be calculated at the meeting, which began at 9 a.m. Tuesday and ended shortly after 3:30 p.m.
The last-minute cuts would put the county property tax increase closer to 67% if calculated similarly to what was previously proposed. Ivie said the budget will likely be “continually worked on” before the tax rate is set in June.
The commission also voted to approve a resolution that will allow the county to levy a higher tax rate, with Ainge and Ivie voting in favor and Lee voting against.
Ainge, the chair of the commission, acknowledged that the proposed budget he helped compile was “asking a difficult thing” by raising taxes, but said the budget was balanced and appropriate.
“It’s the only budget that’s been vetted by our finance department, that ends deficit spending, that plans for the future, that doesn’t rely on speculative revenue,” he said.
Ivie added that many county department heads had endorsed the budget. “We are simply giving the financial support to the people you elected to do their job in their various departments,” he said.
Lee differed from his two colleagues, saying that the tax increase would be too much for the people of Utah County.
“I’m going to choose the one side with the people on this one,” he said.
About 20 people spoke for more than an hour during a public hearing on the tax increase during the meeting. Almost all urged the commissioners not to implement a tax increase, with one man saying county residents were prepared to file a referendum aiming to nullify the tax hike.
The last time the county raised taxes was 23 years ago, according to Ainge.
A previous iteration of the budget proposed a 100% property tax increase. It was then lowered to a 69% proposal after the Utah Taxpayers Association released a statement saying the county should raise property taxes, but not as high as the county originally requested.
A meeting last week took nearly five hours, and the vote was postponed. It was the second time the commission kicked the decision down the road.
Contributing: Felicia Martinez, KSL TV