The Salt Lake City Council is poised to enact a significant tax increase in the next month, with two public hearings starting this week.
In an op-ed for The Tribune published June 8 ("Becker: Why no tax increase"), Mayor Ralph Becker said that Salt Lake City's Council should not adopt a property tax increase. "Since I entered office in 2008, I have not proposed a property tax increase for city operations," he wrote.
The irony is that the mayor, with the blessing of the Salt Lake City Council, has increased many taxes in the last year. He has proposed and implemented a lighting fee that taxes local property owners an average of $40 a year (for a home businesses can be charged more). Although the city called it a fee, it is a tax. A tax by any other name is still a tax.
In addition, athletic field usage fees are being increased. Another new tax/fee comes in the form of parking meters that require payment up until to 8 p.m., two hours later than before. This means that to go downtown with a personal vehicle in order to provide public comment to the Council requires more in fees or taxes than before (instead of $0/hour we now pay at least $2 per hour).
Assessment districts have been proposed that increase taxes downtown and on North Temple. Although previous studies have suggested an assessment district along the new Sugar House streetcar line, at present there are no plans to set it up.
Three members of the Council will be out of office next year, and as Jason Mathis, executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber and executive director of the Downtown Alliance, mentioned at a recent Council hearing, it is questionable to implement a tax increase when the voters cannot respond by voting out the member who votes for the tax increase. Not allowing the voters to decide if a tax increase or large capital project like a theater or hotel is approved seems to be a regular occurrence in Salt Lake City government.
Becker was right to the Council tax increase, but he is wrong to imply that he was defending taxpayers. He has implemented tax or fee increases. He and the Council are increasing the bond debt that city taxpayers are required to pay. That alone should be considered a big tax increase.
I realize that roads need upkeep and repair and the police deserve more support. But implementing a tax or fee increase is a slippery slope. Allowing Salt Lake City to increase taxes by even a nickel will eventually lead to raising taxes by a dime, and before you know it, we will have $100 million in tax increases to contend with.
It is another case of nickel and diming and quartering the taxpayer.
In the next few weeks, the Salt Lake City Council will hold public hearings to allow the public to comment on the proposed property tax increases. Members of the public can also direct their comments to the Council through their website at slcgov.com.
George Chapman is a resident of Salt Lake City and active in Republican politics.