West Jordan could approve its first property tax increase in more than two decades as the city copes with a sluggish economy, its fast growing population and a bump in crime.
City officials are looking to boost property taxes 17 percent in order to raise an additional $1.5 million in revenue, said City Manager Rick Davis.
Most of the extra money $1.1 million would fund more cops on the street. The remainder would allow for fleet upgrades, road repairs and replacing outdated computer software.
"Our caseload for police officers is dangerously high and we need to take care of them," Davis said. "They just need a little bit more help."
According to census data, 68,336 people lived in West Jordan in 2000. By 2010, that number had jumped 52 percent to 103,712 residents.
"Tax increases are never easy," said West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson. "They are only valid for a very few reasons."
Since 2008, the recession has reduced the city's tax revenues, but demand for services continued to grow.
"We used to be rural," Johnson said. "Now we're the fourth largest city in the state, and we have issues that we need to deal with more proactively."
Johnson named graffiti, gang violence and increased property crime as obvious reasons to beef up the city's police force. Since taking office in 2010, she has seen violent crime increase 51 percent in one year's time. Burgeoning caseloads without additional public safety personnel would mean longer response times and ignoring calls for lower-level crimes, she added.
The proposed property tax increase would allow the city to hire eight new patrol officers, one supervisor and an equipment manager who would not be a sworn officer, Johnson said.
While some believe municipal tax revenues will rebound, Davis disagrees and suggests that cities adjust accordingly and find other ways to support local government.
"We're not seeing any growth in our tax base, and we believe we live in a 'new normal,'" Davis said. "The good old days we're not expecting them to come back."
Davis, who has managed various cities for 17 years and West Jordan specifically since August, emphasized that West Jordan has no fancy plans in mind.
"We're definitely focused on the basics police, fire, roads and information technology structure," Davis said. "We're all meat and potatoes around here, and no glitz."
Other Wasatch Front cities pondering property tax increases include Highland, Orem and Taylorsville.
A 17 percent tax increase would require the owner of a $220,000 home to pay an extra $41 annually.
West Jordan's City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on the city's tentative 2013 budget, which includes the tax increase. The meeting includes time for public comment and starts at 6 p.m. in third floor council chambers at 8000 South and Redwood Road.
Doing the math
P West Jordan is proposing a 17 percent property tax increase. What does it mean for residents and the city?
$41 • Additional amount the owner of a $220,000 home would pay annually.
$1.5 million • Additional revenue for the city.
10 • New public safety positions including eight patrol officers, a supervisor, and an equipment manager.
More • Fleet upgrades, road repairs, computer software upgrades.
Source • West Jordan