Bitterly divided, the Weber County Commission approved a $38.6 million county budget that includes higher property taxes for repayment of the general obligation bonds approved by voters in March.

The Republican majority of Joan Hellstrom and Spencer Stokes passed the budget, with a number of refinements decided beforehand, over the objections of Democrat Randall Williford.And for about 15 county residents protesting the budget, things only got worse. Stokes tacked another $103,000 on the $500,000 tax increase, with Hellstrom's support.

The tax increase means county residents can expect to pay an additional $9.35 on a $75,000 home, according to Auditor-Clerk-Treasurer Greg Haws.

It was the budget process, more than the content, that Williford attacked. He accused Stokes and Hellstrom of trying to move all county business behind closed doors.

"There hasn't been one decision made on this budget in an open meeting," Williford said. "It's a ridiculous process, it's a dangerous process, and there's no way I'd vote for a budget that's been put together that way."

Stokes and Hellstrom responded by passing the budget, with no reply to those accusations, or another by Williford that the tax increases amounted to "bait and switch" tactics.

Stokes and Hellstrom have taken the position that higher taxes for 1994 were approved by voters with the passage of the general obligation bond. Under state law, taxes can be levied for repayment of voter-approved bonds without further public notice.

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