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Will west-side property taxes jump?

West Jordan and West Valley leaders mull solutions to their budget woes

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WEST JORDAN — City leaders in West Jordan and West Valley City called work sessions Tuesday night to talk about raising residents' property taxes.

Members of the West Valley City Council are considering raising the city portion of their residents' property taxes by 2 percent — about $12 a year for a $200,000 home — to pay for a budget increase that would fund one-time projects and an ongoing general fund boost of $600,000.

"We've had great sales tax increases over the last two years, even with the national slowdown and with Utah's slowdown," West Valley City manager Wayne Pyle said. "We've been doing well, and we think we'll have an increase in sales tax revenues of about 5 percent next year."

The tax increase in West Valley City will pay for additional personnel, new equipment and special projects like replacing playground equipment in three of the city's parks.

The increase being considered by West Valley City is relatively small, compared with the 66 percent leap in taxes implemented in the city two years ago. Before 2006, the city never raised taxes solely for operational purposes.

West Jordan now finds itself facing a similar budget predicament as the one West Valley City faced two years ago. The city hasn't raised taxes in 20 years, but on Tuesday night the budget discussion evolved from asking "should" they raise taxes to "how much" and "by what means?"

City leaders decided against cutting cost of living increases or suspending salary-step increases for city employees, but council members did agree to delay new hires, cut the city's fireworks budget by $15,000 and withdraw its membership from the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Council members whittled the budget down in other areas, too, but Councilwoman Melissa Johnson was the only member of the council to vote against raising taxes by $2 million, in addition to the cuts made.

"I would hate to raise taxes now so you don't have to raise taxes in 10 years or three years," Johnson said. "Let the people keep their money."

The council stopped short of identifying how the taxes would be implemented — whether by a telecommunications tax or a property tax increase or a combination of several taxes — but the majority voted in favor of a $2 million income increase to be funded by residents.

Both cities still have to schedule public hearings on the issue before any final decisions are made.

E-mail: achoate@desnews.com