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Utahns face an incoming wave of proposed property tax increases

Salt Lake City houses with downtown in the background
Jason Finn
/
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Nearly 90 Utah cities, school districts, water districts and service districts are proposing a hike in property taxes this year.

Nearly 90 Utah cities, school districts, water districts and service districts are proposing a hike in property taxes this year.

Normally, that number is around 60, said Rusty Cannon, the president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. But the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, paired with a year of record-breaking inflation, is “the perfect storm” for a spike in taxes, Cannon said.

Although, he isn’t convinced inflation should play a role in increasing taxes.

“Hopefully most of this inflation is temporary but these tax increases will not work that way,” Cannon said. “They're never going to pull these taxes back.”

Mayfield Town in Sanpete County is proposing the biggest spike. It wants to increase taxes by 259%, or $191 per year based on the average home value. Oakley City homeowners in Summit County could be forking over an extra $274 a year in taxes. That translates to a 189% increase from the previous year. The Jordan School District is asking for 26% or $254 more per year from taxpayers. The City of South Salt Lake wants to bump taxes by 109%, or $293 per year.

Those numbers were all calculated by the UTA based on figures provided to them. None of the entities returned a request for comment on Friday.

If a homeowner lives in an area where, for example, the city, water district and school district are each proposing a tax increase, they would have to pay all three.

Furthermore, these property tax increases will shape an already volatile and unaffordable housing market, Cannon said. For homeowners, the property tax jump might increase the house payment. And while the hikes may seem like they hit the homeowner the most, they can indirectly impact renters as well.

“If somebody owns an apartment building, they're paying property tax on that large piece of property. And these tax increases hit them just like every homeowner,” Cannon said. “So where do you think they put that? They put it in the rent payment.”

Residents on fixed incomes have resources available to them to forgo paying the property tax hike. The Circuit Breaker Tax Relief program offers property tax breaks to homeowners and renters who qualify. Senior citizens who don’t have the cash flow also have an opportunity to defer their property tax payments. SB 25, which was passed during the 2022 legislative session, allows for elderly Utahns to opt out of paying their property tax until they die or sell their property. But once that property is sold, the deferred taxes are due with interest.

However, residents in tax hike areas have a chance to voice their opinions on the matter.

Every entity requesting more money has to go through a Truth in Taxation hearing. During the hearing, the entity has to plead its case as to why it believes an increase is justified. Then, a body of voters, like the city council or school board, votes to approve or deny the hike.

The hearings are set to begin in August. You can find a full list of entities proposing a tax increase and its accompanied hearing here.

Why one Utah city wants to increase taxes 

Riverdale City in Weber County is trying to raise taxes by 94%, or $181 a year. City Administrator Steve Brooks said the last time Riverdale increased taxes was in 2010. But now the city needs the extra revenue.

“It's hard to maintain our level of service, especially in emergency services of police and fire,” Brooks said. “Everything has gotten so expensive.”

Brooks considers Riverdale to be unique. It’s tucked between two main interstates. On one side there’s Hill Airforce Base, on the other side sits the Ogden Airport. There’s a railroad and Weber State University isn’t too far away.

The small town has roughly 9,000 full-time residents. Yet, around 80,000 people visit the city daily for commercial purposes, said Cody Cardon, Riverdale's financial director.

And because so many people travel through the city on any given day, Riverdale has full-time services, like police and fire departments. But Brooks said it’s become harder and harder to maintain public service employees.

“We can't keep employees if we don't pay more. We've got a police officer opening right now that we are having a difficult time finding anybody,” Brooks said. “We're just kind of at a breaking point.”

So, what looks to be a massive tax hike on paper, is “only an increase of $15 a month,” said Cardon.

Riverdale’s City Council will vote on whether or not to increase taxes on Aug. 16.

Updated: July 21, 2022 at 4:55 PM MDT
Updated with additional comment and reporting from Riverdale City, Utah.
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