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West Jordan • After hearing from several residents Wednesday night, council members in West Jordan approved the city's tentative 2013 budget along with its first property tax increase in more than two decades, subject to a truth in taxation hearing scheduled for Aug. 14.
The state's fourth largest city has seen fast population growth, slumping revenues and a rise in crime in recent years.
Todd Marti, a young father of two and sole provider for his family, said that diapers are expensive. However, he spoke in favor of the city raising his property tax.
"This increase is overdue," Marti said, supporting the idea of paying $5 more per month to support sidewalk improvements and a larger police presence.
"I respect that others don't think this should happen, but I think it would be a good thing," Marti added. "This city is worth it."
Alexandra Eframo bristled at the idea, saying that as a senior citizen she lives on a fixed income and if Marti wants a tax increase, he could pay her portion as well.
Julie Dole asked the council to take more time and consider other options that could bolster law enforcement in the city, including raising sales taxes.
"I ask you not to vote to increase our property taxes," Dole said. "We can't keep balancing the budget on the back of property owners."
According to Finance Manager Janice Larsen, the tentative 2013 budget includes a 17 percent property tax increase that would boost revenues by $1,560,000.
The additional dollars would fund 10 positions in West Jordan's police force: eight patrol officers, one supervisor and one equipment manager.
The increase about $41 annually on a $220,000 home would also help fund new police vehicles, pavement repairs and computer software upgrades.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of the tentative budget, tax increase included. The general fund budget would be $49.8 million and all of the city's various budgets total $99.5 million.
Councilman Ben Southworth was the lone negative vote, saying that he supports a smaller tax increase that would generate $1.1 million in revenue.
"This has not been an easy decision for any of us up here," said Councilwoman Judy Hansen, noting that while she sees the need for additional peace officers, her taxes will increase too.
The city's final budget is due to the state by Aug. 17 and a truth in taxation hearing will be held Aug. 14, at which time any tax increase will be finalized.
Mayor Melissa Johnson asked that several public hearings be held before Aug. 14 in order to let residents have further say in the matter and to also let council members make adjustments to the budget.
It was decided to include those hearings during regularly scheduled council meetings on June 27, July 11 and 25, and Aug. 8. The council also decided to hold public hearings on the issue at West Jordan Fire Station No. 53 at 7 p.m. on July 18 and Aug. 4.
City Council OKs 2013 budget
$41 • How much more the owner of a $220,000 home would expect to pay annually with 17 percent increase in property tax.
$1.56 million • Additional revenue tax increase would bring city.
10 • Number of new public safety positions it would fund, including eight patrol officers, a supervisor and an equipment manager.
Also • It would fund fleet upgrades, road repairs and computer software upgrades.
Source • West Jordan