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"New" taxes being levied by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District are more a matter of evening out the burden than of raising rates - according to the board of directors - but citizens see the situation as reaching flood-stage levels.

Residents of Wasatch, Utah, Sanpete, Summit, Salt Lake and Sevier counties turned out in small numbers for the truth-in-taxation hearing at the water conservancy district building but were fairly united in their opposition."I want to register strong opposition to this," said Robert Wright of Orem. "The citizens are being deluged with increased taxes because of pork-barrel spending."

Another dissenter said the board decision to hold the hearing at 9 a.m. cut out many people who would express opposition if they could attend.

Dennis Poulsen of Provo said the ordinary taxpayer can't take the tax load anymore.

"How many fingers are in the this tax pie? Be a little more empathetic with the common people," said Poulson.

Don Christiansen, general manager for the district, explained that the board, as dictated by federal law and by the governor's task force, is proposing an across-county change to bring the tax rates to a .0004 or 2-mill rate.

Currently, because the counties vary greatly in growth rates and population, the tax rate ranges from .000287 in Wasatch County and .000298 in Utah County to .000312 in Summit and .000365 in Salt Lake County.

Garfield and Piute counties are underpaying as well but will be addressed at a hearing Sept. 21 because their assessors were unable to get tax notices out before the Aug. 16 meeting, said Christiansen.

The Central Utah Water Conservancy District may legally assess to the 2-mill or .0004 limit.

Christiansen explained that the Colorado River Storage Project was set up at a time (in 1956) when the word "environmental" did not even appear in the specifications.

Since then the costs have risen to exceed the original appropriations and cost-sharing between the local users and the federal government has been implemented.

Christiansen said the district is currently responsible to provide 35 percent of the costs for planning and design of specific water projects while the federal government picks up the costs for mitigating environmental damage.

"They're requiring we pay our 35 percent mostly up front," said Christiansen.

It's also understood that the district will assess its fully allowable tax rate, he said. "We have levied this but it's not level."

Ron McKee, one of the board members, said he feels the pinch as much as anyone, particularly on his farm and dairy. "Uintah has been taxed at the full rate while others have not," said McKee.

"We need some help from the other side of the state. We look at this as an equalization rather than a raise," he said.

"This is a difficult time for all of us," said board president Gary Palmer. "I've been weeping too over my tax notice, but we live in the desert. Water is the most vital thing that we have.

"We have to think years and years ahead. It's a hard situation for all of us," said Palmer.

Christiansen said without the CUP the eight-year drought broken by one year of normal precipitation would have been felt severely by Utahns.

He explained that projects that appear to be frivolous or outside the original scope of the CUP are being funded by the Bureau of Reclamation, the state of Utah or other federal agencies.