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Spanish Fork aims to keep taxes same

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SPANISH FORK — Elected officials in Spanish Fork seized a rare opportunity Tuesday night, voting 4-1 in favor of a proposal they say will increase city revenues without increasing the property-tax burden on the average homeowner.

But some residents who attended the public hearing questioned the logic and wondered why city officials simply didn't just lower the tax rate whilethey had the chance.

After making the final payment on a 10-year bond for the city's fire station in 2005, Spanish Fork's property tax rate would have decreased from last year's figure of 0.1333 percent to 0.091 percent for this year. That would have decreased the average homeowner's tax bill by about 12 percent for 2006 taxes due Nov. 30, even though the county hiked property value assessments in Spanish Fork by an average of 14 percent this year.

Citing the need to create new revenue for the public safety and courts facility that the city hopes to begin building in 2007, the council voted to set this year's rate at 0.1164 percent, a figure city officials say ensures the average homeowner will pay about the same amount in taxes as last year, as long as their valuation did not increase by more than 14 percent.

According to the city's estimates, a home that was valued at $175,000 in 2005 and which appreciated to $200,000 in 2006 would have a near identical tax bill this year, despite the increased value.

Property values that increased less than the 14 percent will have a slightly lower bill in 2006.

"I think (residents and city officials) all have the same intention here," Councilman Seth V. Sorensen said. "We don't want to charge anybody any more to live in Spanish Fork."

Spanish Fork's tax rate will still rank among the lowest in the county.

Residents at Tuesday's meeting said they felt the information the city sent to citizens was incomplete, and questioned the need to increase city revenues.

"I could care less what American Fork and Springville and other cities are doing," resident David Olson said. "To heck with them. I think this is the wrong direction; the wrong way to go. Our city is growing, and we should have sufficient money to cover those needs without increasing taxes."

City staff and council members responded that the public safety building is a serious need for the city, and with an expected price tag of up to $14 million, the city will need to generate new revenue to finance it.

Councilman Matt D. Barber, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the decision was being made prematurely because the city does not yet have an exact price tag for the public safety facility and doesn't know what annual payments will be.

E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com