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FARMINGTON OKS SPENDING LEVELS EQUAL TO LAST YEAR’S

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A city budget with no tax hike and spending levels about equal to last year was passed Wednesday by the Farmington City Council, which considered but couldn't muster enough support to give itself a raise.

The city's property tax rate is the same as last year, City Manager Max Forbush said, but will yield more revenue for capital improvements after a problem with the county assessor and state Tax Commission is worked out.Farmington's tax rate has been stable for the past three or four years, Forbush said, but city officials noticed the amount collected per resident was falling about $5 a year.

A meeting with the county assessor and state tax commissioners determined the city's growth and increased assessed value were not being accurately estimated when the tax rate was fixed under the state formula, Forbush said.

That has been corrected, he said, and property taxes will be assessed at the same rate as last year. The additional revenue generated by the city's growth will be set aside in a capital improvements fund to help pay for a new fire station the city wants to build this year, he said.

Forbush said some other cities in Davis County, mostly the ones with high growth rates, also noted the tax rate and collection disparity and the problem appears to have been worked out.

"It's not a tax increase. The property tax rate is the same as last year, we're just collecting all of the revenue that's owed to the city," said Mayor Robert Arbuckle.

After approving a 4.5 percent salary increase to the city's full-time employees, the council debated raising members' pay by $25 a month and the mayor's by $50. Council members earn $275 a month, the mayor $350.

No increase has been voted for several years, Forbush said. Council members do not have an expense reimbursement fund either.

"You shouldn't be in this for the money, it's for public service," Arbuckle said, as the council members nodded in agreement. "But the job shouldn't take money out of your families' pockets, either," he said, as council members continued to nod agreement.

The discussion moved in fits and starts, with long periods of silence as the members pondered the implications of raising their salary.

Councilman Don Redd said the salaries should be reviewed annually, like those of any other city employees, to avoid "someone down the line having to bite the political bullet and go for what looks like a big raise to make up for the years when none was given."

The council members agreed the job shouldn't be seen as an income booster but they also agreed they shouldn't lose money by serving the city. Councilwoman Pat Achter estimated her council job cost her $2,000 last year.

Councilman Art Maxwell moved to raise the council salary by $25 a month and the mayor's pay by $50, but the motion died for lack of a second. No other motion was offered and, after a few more moments of silent pondering, the council moved on to pass the city's 1989-90 budget.

The council set a general fund budget of $1,235,194 for the coming year, anticipating the collection of $284,300 in property tax for the general fund, in addition to $362,238 in sales tax and $231,500 in franchise tax funds.

Just over $100,000 in property taxes will be collected for capital improvements, with $90,350 earmarked to pay off outstanding bonds on the city building and $7,740 set aside to pay for a new fire station.