MANTI—Officials from the Central Utah Water Con- servancy District (CUWCD) based in Orem dropped by the July 19 Sanpete County Commission meeting to let commissioners know the district is proposing a 2.5 percent property tax increase for the fiscal year 2023.
All property owners in Sanpete County pay a CUWCD levy as part of their property tax payment. But none of the money goes to the county itself. The tax does not affect the county budget.
Based on a calculation by Commissioner Reed Hatch, the proposed tax increase would translate to an increase of about $260,000 for Sanpete County taxpayers, bringing contributions to the seven-county taxing district coming out of Sanpete County to just over $870,000.
If the Sanpete Water Conservancy District (SWCD), which also levies a tax on property in the county, is able to move forward with an alternative plan to the long-delayed Narrows Project, the Sanpete County contribution to CUWCD coffers could be worth it.
The CUWCD has pledged $5 million to an effort to bring 5,400 acre feet of water from the eastern slope of the Wasatch Plateau into Sanpete County for agricultural and potentially culinary use.
If the Narrows alternative does not move forward, Sanpete County taxpayers would get no services and no water for their contribution.
“I have a problem with it (the increase), Hatch told the CUWCD officials. “It costs our county another $260,000 and we don’t benefit from it.”
The CUWCD was established in the 1960s to build and administer the Central Utah Project (CUP), the largest reclamation project in state history.
Water from Uintas
The primary goal of the CUP was to tap water in the Uinta Mountains and bring it to the Wasatch Front. The CUWCD originally took in seven counties which were to receive CUP water or where projects were to be built. Those counties were Uintah, Duchesne, Summit, Wasatch, Salt Lake, Utah and Juab.
In 1967, the CUWCD amended its plans and prom- ised to also provide 36,000 acre feet of water to the Sevier River Basin. With that action, five rural counties—Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Piute and Garfield—joined the district, bringing membership to 12 counties.
The CUWCD never provided any water to the rural counties. Four of the five counties have withdrawn from the district. Sanpete County is the only rural county of the original five that has remained in the district, mainly because of the promise of help with the Narrows Project, or now, an alternative to the Narrows Project.
K.C. Shaw, deputy general manager for the CUWCD, said the operation is proposing to raise its certified tax rate from .000322 (which translates to approximately $3.20 per $10,0000 of assessed valuation) to .0004 (which translates to $4 per $10,000 in assessed valuation).
Shaw said the average home value in Sanpete County is about $400,000. In Utah, homeowners pay taxes on 55 percent of the value of their primary residences. So the certified tax rate would be charged on an average of about $220,000.
That means the amount the average Sanpete County home owner would pay to the CUWCD would go from about $70.40 currently to about $88.
The amount the CUWCD would collect in taxes from the seven counties now within district boundaries would go from about $82.2 million to $102.1 million, an increase of just under $20 million.
$265 million budget
Shaw said property taxes are just one source of revenue supporting a projected CUWCD budget of $265 million for FY 2023. The district also gets funds from water sales and a federal appropriation.
According to Shaw, the district plans to spend about $155 million on construction in the coming fiscal year, including building a pipeline from Span- ish Fork Canyon to Santaquin, the only piece of the CUP not yet completed.
The CUWCD also needs to maintain and replace infrastructure built over the past 50 years, Shaw said. For instance, the district must replace a pipeline in Utah County that provides water to 1.5 million people. That project is expected to cost $40-$50 million.
“We’re just like everybody else,” Shaw said. “Inflation has hit us really hard, especially with construction…Inputs for our bids have gone up in excess of 20 percent.”
A public hearing on the proposed tax increase is scheduled for Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. at CUWCD headquarters, 1426 E. 750 North in Orem.