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Senator aims to roll back 2 water-related tax hikes

The Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District, which supplies water to much of the Salt Lake Valley, and the Central Utah Project raised their property tax rates last year.

Sen. Michael Waddoups didn't like it, and he's trying, by lowering the legal limit water districts can levy on property, to roll back those increases.Not surprisingly, Utah water districts are crying foul.

But they lost their first round in the Legislature on Friday. Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, got his bill out of a Senate committee, and it will now be debated by the whole Senate.

Waddoups did agree to amend his bill so the CUP won't be affected. But other districts could still suffer, a number of water officials said.

Raising the property tax is actually a smart way to deal with rising costs, said several water officials. That makes large commercial developments pick up more of the tab than if just water rates were increased.

For example, raising the property tax slightly brings in a lot of extra cash from commercial developments like the Valley Fair Mall. Raising water rates brings in substantially less cash because commercial developments do not use enough water to bring in a similar amount of revenue. Thus, raising property tax rates actually gives homeowners a break, water officials said.

But Waddoups is unconvinced. The water companies "just raised rates for no reason - they didn't need the money right now and just saw an opportunity" to raise property taxes and not catch too much heat because other property tax rates were being lowered, he said following the hearing.

In his area, the property tax hike is about $8 on a $150,000 home. Not a lot, but not right, either, Waddoups said.