Read my lips: So few taxes…
…result in more taxes later, Fairview and Sanpete residents are about to find
FAIRVIEW—The chickens of the past have come home to roost in terms of delayed tax increases in Fairview City.
After more than two decades of almost no property tax increases, including one year in which taxes were actually lowered, Fairview is asking its residents to pony up by paying 17 percent more in property taxes.
“We hate to see it, but the reality is that we’ve got to make some changes here and there,” said Fairview City Administrator Dave Taylor last week. “We’ve been living on a budget that’s however many years old, and we just can’t do it.”
Taylor and other city officials will offer more detail next week when they hold a truth-in-taxation public hearing to explain the reasons the proposed property tax increase. That hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m., at Fairview City Hall.
For years, Taylor said, Fairview property owners got a pass. In 24 or so years, there has been only one tax increase that came from the city. And even that one, he said, amounted to only $3,000 citywide.
“Our expenses have been creeping up and up for the last 20 years,” he said.
The city’s revenue has not kept pace.
“The citizens of Fairview were blessed to not have a tax increase for many years,” he said, but now that blessing has become a “curse” because taxpayers must now make up for the past.
“For us to do justice to our citizens, what services do you want cut if we don’t increase taxes a little bit?” said Taylor, who, as a candidate for mayor, could take some of the heat for the increase personally.
For instance, he said, some people are clamoring for additional police protection in the city, which would mean hiring another officer. With salary and benefits, it’s a chunk of change for a city with a budget the size of Fairview’s.
Even if the city got another $70,000 in additional tax revenue, it wouldn’t be enough, he said. “We would have to double your property taxes to even think about getting another officer. It’s amazing how many people don’t comprehend that.”
The tax proposal, as it stands now, would raise taxes by about $16 on a home valued at $150,000, or about $25 for a $200,000 home.
“It’s not huge,” Taylor said, while in the same breath acknowledging that any increase is unwelcome, especially for the roughly one-third of Fairview’s citizens who are at retirement age or older and on fixed incomes.
“There’s no silver lining,” Taylor said. “… All these price increases, where is that money coming from? That means they have less food on their table. They’re struggling on their power bills because they don’t have the money to pay them.”
Taylor’s opponent in the mayoral race, Shauna Rawlinson, said she didn’t know the specifics of the tax increase, and so couldn’t comment specifically.
She recognized the city needs to provide vital services that need to be paid for, such as police and utilities. “I always appreciate the desire to improve city services, but our citizens need a break if we can offer them one.”
She outlined a general position of fewer taxes and smaller government. “Fairview City is a small agricultural town, with small-town values. People work hard for their money and like to be able to hang on to it,” she said. “I think lower taxes help our local community by keeping money in our citizens’ pockets. I also think cities, especially small ones, should exhaust every possible avenue of avoiding a tax increase before proposing one.”
Fairview’s citizens might find the tax increase even more burdensome since it comes on the heels of the nearly 60 property tax increase approved by Sanpete County last year.