Tax notices give landowners unhappy reminder about large county property-tax increase

 

John Hales

Staff writer

8/3/2017

 

MANTI—It was last December when the Sanpete County Commission held a truth-in-taxation hearing to explain why the county was boosting its property-tax rate by a number that, by any standard, was large.

It’s been nine months, and perhaps many Sanpete County taxpayer have forgotten about it. Or perhaps they were just vaguely aware at the time, not realizing what the increase would mean.

But even if they were aware of the discussion last winter, many residents were shocked anew last week when they received this year’s tax-disclosure notices: The line on the notices for Sanpete County is larger than last year’s by more than half—almost 60 percent.

Fifty-eight-point-seven, to be exact.

One explanatory and cautionary note is needed: The 58.7 percent increase applies only to the county portion of the bill. According to County Auditor Ilene Roth, if you consider all property owners in the county all government units levying tax, the average increase from last year in total projected tax owed is 8-12 percent.

For example, a taxpayer in Ephraim who paid $103 in county tax in 2016 is being billed $163 for county taxes in 2017. That’s a 58 percent increase. The same taxpayer’s total bill for all jurisdictions was $703 last year. Her projected tax for 2017 is $785, an 11.6 percent hike.

Like Fairview City, the county is finding the taxpaying Peters of the present must now pay for the tax laxity of the Pauls of the past.

Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill said as much, giving nearly the same reason for the county’s tax increase as Fairview City Administrator (and mayoral candidate) David Taylor did for Fairview’s. The passion of leaders, over many years, to avoid tax raises at nearly any cost resulted in tax increases that are now an absolute must.

Neill said the county commissioners have all taken heat for the huge increase they approved last winter.

“There were [past] commissioners who said, ‘Under my watch I will never raise your taxes,’” Neill said last week. That policy resulted in the county eating up its own cash reserves.

“It was getting scary,” she said. “And now it’s these commissioners’ faults for [raising taxes] all at once.”

What county officials have seen as a necessary fiscal course-correction is being viewed by some as driving taxpayers into the ditch.

That’s something to be expected given the response commissioners received at a truth- in-taxation public hearing last November. One resident at the meeting said, “If the streets have to turn to dirt, let’s just do it,” to cheers of approval from the assembled crowd.

But, said Sanpete County Commissioner Claudia Jarrett at the same meeting, “We’ve gone on skin and bones as long as we can, and now we have no choice but to increase taxes.”