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Utah Supreme Court justices will hear the residents' appeal Wednesday and are expected to issue a ruling that day the final one for county clerks to complete ballots and get them to overseas and military voters in time to meet the statutory deadline (45 days before an election.)
"We're really thrilled the court has taken it," said Christine McClory, a referendum organizer. She said the residents prepared the appeal and will argue the case themselves.
Draper has hired outside counsel from the firm of Smith-Hartvigsen to represent it. The city had no comment on the hearing. "We will wait for the Supreme Court's decision," said spokeswoman Maridene Alexander.
The controversy affects ballots in Salt Lake and Utah counties because Draper and the special service district whose taxation is in question straddle the county line.
At issue is the proposed referendum to throw out the budget approved for the Traverse Ridge Special Service District based on residents' claims they are being over-taxed. The district's estimated 1,200 residents pay city property tax plus a special tax for the extra cost of snow removal and road maintenance in the higher-elevation Suncrest/Traverse Ridge area.
While district residents acknowledge their obligation to cover the extra costs, they say the tax being levied is well beyond the amount justified by expenses. As an example, one property tax bill submitted to the court shows a resident's city tax at $562, while his special-district tax is $1,000.
City officials disagree that residents are overtaxed. But they have hired a consultant to conduct an independent review of the claims and are in discussions about switching oversight of the district from the city council to a special board that would be created for that purpose.
Residents dissatisfied with their treatment at the city's hands spent months gathering signatures from neighbors to get the referendum on the ballot. But only two minutes before the petition-certification deadline at 5 p.m. on Sept. 2, they were informed that the city was pulling the plug on the effort. An email from the city recorder informed referendum organizers that such elections for special service districts are not authorized by the state constitution.
The last-minute notification, city leaders said, was unavoidable.
"There was no hidden agenda by the city. Due to the unprecedented nature of the request, and the potential citywide impact, the city needed time to research this question with outside counsel and formulate a decision," Mayor Troy Walker and City Council members said in a letter to residents.
McClory had a very different perspective. She said city leaders seemed to signal their approval weeks earlier, preparing petition sheets and actually drafting language for the proposed ballot measure.
She described city officials' decision to wait until the last minute to kill the effort "somewhat abusive" and "really an injustice."