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A truth in taxation public hearing at Salt Lake City Hall on Thursday drew only two dozen taxpayers, but a dozen of them blistered the City Council for raising their property taxes by 13.8 percent.
Nonetheless, the council voted 5-1 to finalize its $221 million budget, which includes $8 million in new property taxes.
A majority of the council agreed to raise taxes in June, with only council members Carlton Christensen and Stan Penfold voting against the hike. Mayor Ralph Becker promptly vetoed the tax increase, but Kyle LaMalfa, Jill Remington Love, Soren Simonsen, Luke Garrott and Charlie Luke voted to override the veto on June 21. On Thursday, Christensen once again opposed the tax hike; Penfold was absent.
Although there was little public objection leading up to the veto override, there was some Thursday evening.
Bob Clark told the council it shouldn't increase property taxes by such a large amount.
"I think government is killing the middle class," he said.
Andy Eatchell said it was wrong for the council to levy such an increase in tough economic times.
"Some people can't put food on the table and you're raising our taxes?"
Bliss Parsons noted that city government ought to look to more efficient operations.
"I see city employees sitting in city cars, against the idling ordinance, wasting time for hours."
And Scott Hawkins told the council it was being unfair to property owners.
"I'm sorry the five of you feel you should punish people who own property and want to retire someday," he said. "You don't start stealing from people because you think of something you might need."
The tax hike is equivalent to $67.93 on a house valued at $250,000.
The majority of the council cited crumbling roads, cracked sidewalks and run-down parks as a need to boost its Capital Improvement Program after years of deferred maintenance.
About $4.6 million will go to capital improvements. The balance of the $8 million increase will go toward shoring up service levels.
"By failing to keep up with maintenance, we cost ourselves more in the long run," said Council Chairman LaMalfa. Raising taxes "is the conservative thing to do."
Usually, it's the mayor who proposes tax increases. But Becker has not asked for a property tax increase in the six annual budgets he has presented to the council.
Garrott said citizens have been well-served by the mayor's efficiencies as well as the council's concern for infrastructure maintenance.
"I feel good about the tax increase because it's the responsible thing to do," he said.