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Midvale leaders knew that with their proposed doubling of city property taxes they would have some explaining to do. So they are trying something different from the typical tax-increase notice in local newspapers — they are doing some explaining.

The city purchased a full quarter-page ad in daily newspapers this week to run side-by-side with the usual Truth in Taxation notice required by state law.

The second ad goes well beyond the mandatory one, explaining not just how much the tax increase will cost the average homeowner and business owner, but why the city believes the hike is justified, and noting some of the rising expenses it faces.

"We wanted people to understand why we needed more money and what it would be used for — not just that we needed more money. We felt like it was only fair," Mayor JoAnn Seghini said in an interview.

"It's hard to make a decision when you don't know all the information and the law doesn't require that, they just want you to panic everybody so they will come out screaming."

The "Message to Midvale City Property Taxpayers" begins by inviting residents to a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, something that's a repeat of the mandatory ad.

But it then diverges from the state-required notice to provide a bit of history: The city last raised its property tax six years ago. That 17 percent bump amounted to an extra $40 a year for the average homeowner.

This time around, the proposed increase would add another $64 to the same tax bill.

Among other things, the ad says, the extra revenue would go for paying increased costs of police protection, road repair and maintenance and debt service on police and fire station bonds issued in 1999.

The city receives just 4 percent of the total property tax paid by residents, the ad notes. Most of the revenue goes to schools and other taxing entities.

If the proposed 107.7 percent hike takes effect, the city would be receiving about 10 percent of the total tax bill.

"Our tax rate has been so low that our citizens pay more to the Salt Lake County Library than they do to the city," Seghini said.

"A tax is a tax and you add those together and people are paying a significant amount," she acknowledged, "but we can no longer survive on a tax that is lower than the library tax."

The Utah Taxpayers Association was instrumental in passing the Truth-in-Taxation laws years ago mandating any local government seeking a property tax increase publish an ad and hold a public hearing. The association's Billy Hesterman liked the idea of a message to taxpayers.

"You've got to commend the city for making an effort to make sure their taxpayers are aware of an increase and helping them understand what that increase is going to pay for," he said.

Hesterman questioned, though, whether the city ad "tells the whole story," noting it didn't mention Utopia, a controversial public-sector broadband internet network that has proved costly for Midvale and other cities involved. He also pointed out that the reference to the failed vote on Proposition 1. "It almost felt that it was kind of beating up the voters for making a decision."

"Hopefully this is a transparency effort and not an effort just telling [city leaders'] side of the story, or only what they want taxpayers to know," Hesterman said.

Now in her 19th year as mayor, Seghini said she believes that explaining things to residents upfront is an effective approach.

"If people don't know what you're really asking for, if they think it's just to inflate your budget so you can do whatever, I don't think that's very healthy and I don't think it's been a good way to run the store for a long time." —

Public hearing on proposed tax hike

The Midvale mayor and City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 7505 So. Holden Street. › XX