One side says, "If we don't incorporate, it's only a matter of time before our community is carved up and absorbed by neighboring cities."

The other side says, "If we do incorporate, it's only a matter of time before taxes go up and service levels decline."Since both sides could be right, voters on Tuesday are being asked not necessarily to choose between them, but rather to weigh them.

Hanging in the balance is the proposed city of Union.

Richard Walsh, the chief proponent of the new city, believes even more than that is at stake. "It's life or death for Union," he said. "People are beginning to sense that this is our last chance to survive as a community."

Ken Budge, who represents a group called Citizens Against Higher Taxes, calls the annexation threat a "scare tactic," arguing, "no city can annex Union unless the people living here vote to be annexed."

His group contends that what's really at stake is higher taxes.

The new city will need a franchise tax to survive, and he predicts it won't end there, Budge says.

"It will only be a little while before this new layer of bureaucracy decides it has to have a fancy city hall and all of the other perks politicians in other cities have. You can bet those things will cost big time, and taxpayers will foot the bill."

"Talk about scare tactics," Walsh responds. "They've been harping on that, and it's simply not true."

According to a feasibility study, a 6 percent franchise tax would generate about $568,000 for the new city. But $400,000 of that would be surplus revenue and could be eliminated, Walsh said. New businesses that are already in development in Union will probably take care of the rest and make the franchise tax unnecessary, "which is what we've said all along," he added.

The two sides are employing strikingly different tactics to deliver their arguments to the voters.

The opposition was organized and is being heavily financed by Hermes Associates, the developers of the Family Center at Fort Union. With a campaign war chest of more than $20,000, the opponents have been appealing to voters through billboards, mailings and a blizzard of hand-delivered fliers.

Though the proponents have raised less than $500, they have had an "army" of volunteers who make up with enthusiasm what they lack in funding, Walsh said.

"We've had people tell us they weren't going to vote to incorporate until they saw all the big bucks fighting on the other side," he said.

Bordered roughly by I-215, 1300 East, 7800 South and State Street, Union would be the county's 13th municipality. Covering only 2.8 square miles, it would be the smallest, but with 13,684 residents, it would rank as the sixth most populous.

Voters haven't approved an incorporation since West Valley City was established in 1980.

The drive to incorporate Union began with a petition drive in October 1992. By Jan. 12, 1993, organizers had the 1,100 signatures they needed to force the county to finance a feasibility study and then place the issue on the ballot.

Conducted by Wikstrom Economic & Planning Consultants Inc., the Union feasibility study concluded that tax revenues the county would lose to Union City would be offset by the cost of municipal services it provides to the area.

The bottom line, according to the study, is that "the incorporation of Union is economically feasible." Supported mostly by a strong commercial sales tax base, Union City would have the money it needs to provide a level of services comparable to that of neighboring cities, the consultants said.

Budge maintains that the feasibility study's conclusions are obsolete in light of the threatened de-annexation by the Family Center at Fort Union. Without that huge tax base, Union's taxes will be "astronomical," he said.

Walsh said if the Family Center doesn't become part of Union, it will likely be annexed by Sandy, resulting in a tax increase for unincorporated area residents anyway.

"This is an issue of self-determination," Walsh said. "If people want local control and government that is much closer to them, they'll vote for it."

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Additional Information

Weighing pros, cons of creating a city

Pro

- Keeps the historic community intact

- Local control

- County contracts keep services the same

- Minimal or no tax increase

"This is about self-determination. If we don't incorporate, Union will cease to exist." - Richard Walsh, incorporation chairman.

Con

- Requires franchise tax

- Reduces services

- Establishes more bureaucracy

- Forces Family Center de-annexation

"A vote for incorporation is a vote for higher taxes. It is as simple as that." - Ken Budge, Citizens Against Higher Taxes.