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Why Sanpete brings in less than other counties in taxes

 

Suzanne Dean

Publisher

11-17-2016

 

MANTI—Is Sanpete County a “donut hole?”

That’s the term Commission Chairwoman Claudia Jarrett used at a recent hearing to explain why Sanpete brings in a lot less in property tax revenue than other counties with similar populations.

The state classifies counties with populations of 11,000-31,000 as fourth-class counties. Sanpete is one of seven fourth-class counties.

Sanpete County taxes are low compared to taxes in similar counties. The county’s current certified tax rate (the decimal that is multiplied by the assessed value of property to determine how much it is taxed) is .002792. That’s the sixth lowest among the seven fourth-class counties. Only Wasatch County has a lower rate.

That certified tax rate is a little higher than the base rate advertised as part of the proposed tax increase. That’s because the .002792 rate includes some things, such as the bookmobile, that would not be eligible to get any money from a tax increase. The proposed tax increase only applies to the levy for general county operations.

If the county commission approves the tax increase now being proposed, the certified tax rate for everything, both general operations and special line items, would go to an estimated .004170, which would give Sanpete the second highest rate, behind Sevier County.

The problem is that Sanpete County, unlike surrounding counties such as Juab, Sevier, Carbon and Emery, doesn’t have any mines, power plants or railroads, the types of properties that pay substantial sums in property taxes.

That’s why people sometimes call Sanpete County the “donut hole.”

The accompanying chart captures the consequences of current low taxes and a donut-hole economy.

Sanpete County has to provide the same services to a similar-size or larger population than other fourth-class counties. But at current tax rates, it ranks seventh out of eight counties in the amount of property tax it brings in.

The only county below Sanpete is San Juan, and San Juan’s estimated 2016 population is 14,700, compared to Sanpete, which has an estimated population of 27,800.

If the county commission adopts the proposed tax increase, property tax revenue will go up $1.5 million. But Sanpete will still be sixth out of seven fourth-class counties in property tax revenue ahead of only San Juan County.