Why water property taxes are going up in Salt Lake City and Sandy

Salt Lake City and Sandy approved property tax increases this month to help the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy pay for projects, including improvements to the Deer Creek Dam — a vital source of water to both cities.

Salt Lake City and Sandy approved property tax increases this month to help the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy pay for projects, including improvements to the Deer Creek Dam — a vital source of water to both cities. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Property taxes in two Salt Lake County cities are increasing to meet a growing need for water infrastructure improvements.

Salt Lake City leaders have approved the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy recommendation to increase property tax collection from 0.00020% to 0.00035%. Sandy leaders approved a similar tax increase on May 7.

"We need to put the investment where it needs to be and this will keep our water safe for future generations," said Salt Lake City Councilman Alejandro Puy, before the City Council's vote on May 21.

The Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy is the wholesale water provider for both cities. Per its website, nearly half of its funds come from water sales, while property tax and assessments account for the rest.

Annalee Munsey, the district's general manager, explained there's now "critical aging infrastructure" and other infrastructure needs that require additional funding. This includes four major projects within the district:

  • Required seismic adjustments and other improvements to the aging Salt Lake aqueduct.
  • Required intake adjustments to the Deer Creek Dam. While located in Provo Canyon, about 80% of the reservoir's "water portfolio" is directed to the Salt Lake Valley. That equates to about 85,000 acre-feet of water, annually.
  • Improvements to the aging water infrastructure in Salt Lake City's Northwest Quadrant.
  • Costs associated with the district's investment in Central Utah Project water.

The board approved a 3% water rate increase on top of the suggested property tax changes to address these needs.

The change is estimated to cost about $49 per year for a Salt Lake City resident with a median property value of $596,000, according to city officials. It's slightly less in Sandy. Tom Godfrey, chairman of the district's board of trustees, said the increase is expected to generate a little over $8.6 million annually between the two cities.

He added the district plans to conduct a "regular review" of property taxes every three years. Per Utah code, the district is authorized to issue as high as a 0.0005% property tax for water projects.

Between the formal meeting and informational meeting both held on May 21, Puy said it's "always tough" to talk about tax raises; however, the money is "needed" as Salt Lake City's population continues to grow now and in the future. His colleagues agreed.

"We don't want to end up like a headline similar to Flint, Michigan. We want to secure our infrastructure for future generations," said Salt Lake City Councilwoman Eva López Chávez. "This is an important and necessary investment in our city."

The measure comes as Utah lawmakers have started to look into the practice of property taxes enacted by water districts. Water conservation groups argue property taxes subsidize the cost of using water, which leads to overconsumption.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill last year directing the Utah Division of Water Resources to review the practice. It has until Oct. 30 to provide a report back to state leaders.

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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