Midvale leaders, residents don’t like it, but council OKs big tax hike

Midvale • City Council members and residents debated a proposed 144 percent property tax increase Tuesday night.

Although many people — including City Council members — expressed their displeasure with the proposal, the council on Tuesday night approved the increase on a 3-2 vote.

Laurie Harvey, assistant city manager and director of finance, said the total increase is 144 percent.

Residents seemed shocked that such a big increase was necessary.

Dorothy Dailey is one of many widows in the area who worry about what the tax increase means for her. "A widow in our situation is on a fixed income. We don't get a raise. If you raise our taxes that much, that comes out of our living expense, and there's no way we can make it up," said Dailey. "I wish you'd take into consideration that some of us aren't quite as well off as you are."

City officials explained that Midvale has the lowest tax rates in the state, which is now proving a problem for the city of 33,000. Midvale currently receives only four percent of residents' property tax payment, which is about $68 on an average $200,000 home.

At that rate, City Hall gets less than $1 million each year, according to City Manager Kane Loader.

The increase raises taxes by about $100 on the same home, and 10 percent of the overall property taxes will go to the city.

City officials also said this tax increase should provide the city with an adequate budget through 2023, even with a five percent increase each year.

Still, many residents were frustrated by the proposed increase, saying it should have been phased in over the years.

"So the thinking was, we don't increase then, but we're just gonna massively increase now. That to me is a disconnect. Whereas a gradual increase is a lot easier for most consumers to absorb," said Milan Vasic.

The Council admitted they made a mistake by not gradually increasing taxes in the past but said the tax increase is their only option now to avoid a deficit in 2017.

"We're not career politicians. We live in the same neighborhoods. We are you, you are us. This property tax increase affects me personally; I'm raising my own taxes. And so as we look at this, we try our best to run as lean as possible. We just can't do it anymore, and we admit that we made a mistake in prior years by not incrementally raising it," said Councilman Paul Hunt. The council said it will be more diligent in the future.

Hunt joined Stephen Brown and Quinn Sperry in approving the increase. Councilmen Wayne Sharp and Paul Glover voted against it.

The Council last raised taxes in 2010, hiking them 17 percent for an average $40 increase on an average home.

Vasic asked council members what citizens can do to help the city, so a drastic tax increase like this one does not happen again.

Councilman Brown said that residents need to reach out to their state legislators to let them know the city is underfunded and needs help.

"Every one of them that knows the help that we need is a plus for us. It helps us," said Brown.

City Council also voted to adopt the proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year. This budget includes an increase in police spending because the contract rate has increased, an increased salary for a full-time mayor, and money to pay off the city's debts.