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South Salt Lake residents pay more of their income toward running city government than any of the state's 50 largest cities, and Salt Lake City residents pay the most overall, according to a study released Monday by the Utah Taxpayers Association.

"City governments are often overlooked, but arguably have the most impact on our daily lives," said Billy Hesterman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, which is a business-backed anti-tax watchdog group.

As cities around the state evaluate whether to raise property taxes this year, he said, "it is important that taxpayers understand how much their city is spending and what that means to them in their daily lives."

South Salt Lake residents paid $64.26 of every $1,000 they earned in taxes and fees to run city government, the report found. Riverton residents had the lowest cost, at $9.71 of every $1,000 earned. The average statewide was $25 of every $1,000 earned.

Salt Lake City residents paid the most in total dollars, putting an average $1,228.37 in taxes and fees toward city government, while Riverton residents paid $248.74, again, the lowest in the state.

"This is money that is coming out of families' budgets and it isn't money that grows on trees," Hesterman said.

But he acknowledged that it is important to keep in mind that different cities have different levels of services they provide.

"They do have demands they need to meet, we recognize that," Hesterman said. "Certainly South Salt Lake has a unique population they need to cater to and take care of that is different from other cities out there."

Salt Lake City spends $100 million on public safety, while South Salt Lake spends nearly $14 million on public safety. Riverton, by contrast, is part of the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area, so taxpayers pay less than $900,000 to the city for public safety, but do pay taxes directly to the service district, which operates the Unified Police Department and Unified Fire Department.

The example of spending on public safety is one of the reasons a Salt Lake City spokesman said the report "has all sorts of problems."

"They are creating a false picture when they throw out these numbers about Salt Lake City without giving the full background," said Deputy Salt Lake City Attorney Lynn Pace. "If you add in police and fire, Riverton is one of the highest-cost cities in the whole state in terms of the actual cost for services. It is almost as high as Salt Lake City, so this report is completely deceptive."

Additionally, Pace said, it fails to take into consideration the sales-tax revenues that pour into the city during the daytime, when the city's population essentially doubles because of commuting workers. Those are taxes collected by the city but not necessarily paid just by city residents.

Given the high burdens in some cities, Hesterman suggested that cities could look at services provided that might be offered more efficiently or at a lower cost by the private sector and avoid government competition with businesses. The Taxpayers Association, for example, has long advocated for privatizing things like golf courses, recreation centers and trash collection.

"If it's found in the Yellow [Pages], it's something taxpayers shouldn't be doing," Hesterman said.

In addition, the study didn't take into account that much of the sales tax collected in Salt Lake City comes from purchases made by people who do not live in the city. The report doesn't distinguish between taxes paid by individuals versus commercial and industrial taxpayers — South Salt Lake, for example, is heavily industrial. It also did not take into account higher property values in Salt Lake City versus other municipalities, which drives how much property taxes residents pay.

A spokesperson for South Salt Lake City did not return a call seeking response to the new report.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke Highest and lowest city tax burdens (per capita)


1. Salt Lake City: $1,228.37

2. South Salt Lake City: $1,056.89

3. South Jordan: $919.78

4. Lindon: $871.60

5. American Fork: $835.74


46. North Ogden: $366.07

47. Taylorsville: $358.27

48. Kaysville: $351.71

49. West Haven: $278.64

50. Riverton: $248.74

Source: Utah Taxpayer Association report reviewing FY2014 financial reports for Utah's 50 largest cities ­­—

Highest and lowest city tax burdens per $1,000 of resident income


1. South Salt Lake: $64.26

2. Salt Lake City: $43.66

3. Ogden: $39.89

4. American Fork: $39.08

5. Lindon: $38.07


46. Holladay: $13.17

47. Kaysville: $12.73

48. West Haven: $11.59

49. Cottonwood Heights: $11.49

50. Riverton: $9.71

Source: Utah Taxpayer Association report reviewing FY2014 financial reports for Utah's 50 largest cities