A group of Salt Lake residents that met to discuss the tax initiatives on November's ballot heard several opinions from those opposing the initiatives, but few from those supporting them.
Representatives from the pro-initiative Utah Taxpayers Association forgot about the Sunnyside Community Council meeting Wednesday night, which left residents hearing a mostly one-sided opinion on the possible effects of the initiatives.However, those pro-initiative voices that were heard accused opponents of presenting only the issues that "pull at our heartstrings," such as saying kindergarten and athletics could be eliminated.
All those who spoke had strong opinions.
"We believe the impact of these initiatives would be detrimental to the state of Utah and particularly detrimental to our children in the school system," said Warren Pugh, co-chairman of Taxpayers for Utah, which opposes the initiatives.
He told the audience of about 55 people that if the initiatives pass, $329 million would have to be cut from the state's budget.
"I think you can take $329 million out of the budget if you're willing to accept the consequences," he said, adding that such consequences would affect education and highways the most.
Pugh estimated that $125 million would need to be cut from the education budget, which would raise the number of children in each classroom and reduce or eliminate the career-ladder program, among many other things. He said the state Department of Health would lose $26.7 million, the state Department of Corrections would lose $8.5 million and the state Department of Transportation would lose $41 million.
Jack Keegan, assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction in the Salt Lake School District, said if Initiative A passes, at least $14.2 million would have to be cut from city schools.
Initiative A would limit residential property taxes to 0.75 percent of fair market value, limit other property taxes to 1 percent of fair market value and limit growth in state and local governments.
"We are a district heavily dependent on property tax," he said. "When you take a 20 percent cut it affects the classroom . . . . Keegan said possible consequences in Salt Lake schools would include an increase in class size of five or more students, elimination of kindergarten or further increases in class size, elimination of transportation for students living within three miles of a school, elimination of 300 positions, including teachers, elimination of adult education, reduction by 33 percent of all administrators, elimination of high school athletics unless privately funded and many other consequences.
"We would have to eliminate debate and athletics that use taxes and put it purely on a fee basis," he said.
But some of the residents attending the discussion objected to Keegan's predictions, and one Salt Lake businessman accused Keegan of presenting only the issues that "pull at our heartstrings," such as saying kindergarten and athletics could be eliminated.
"You're out of touch with our needs and the pockets you've dipped into," said Dan Loewen. "It's time the tax spenders face the realities that the tax earners have faced every day. . . . I don't hear any proposals to decrease your salaries or your aides."