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S.L. County retracts debt from levies

Property tax on an average home will increase by about $5

After enduring a backlash last week at a public hearing on passing judgment and tort levies onto taxpayers, the Salt Lake County Council voted to retract about $110,000 of that debt Tuesday.

The remaining roughly $2.5 million will be passed on and raise the annual property tax on an average home in the county by about $5. The increase comes as part of a yearly process wherein refunds issued to property owners for overassessments and legal rulings rendered against the county are paid for as property tax add-ons.

"This is an issue faced by every taxing entity," Council Chairman Joe Hatch said. "It's been required of us three out of the last four years."

Hatch recognized the position of tax-weary county residents who have seen their property values go down without an equitable reduction in their tax liability. Unfortunately, he said, there are many other factors that contribute to residents' overall tax bill, including levies assessed for local school districts.

Hatch cited a state-ordered equalization plan to distribute the cost of the Jordan School District split as a prime example, and he noted that the council was firmly in opposition to both the split and the scheme devised to pay for it all.

County Auditor Jeff Hatch also acknowledged public sentiment voiced at last week's hearing in a statement released after the meeting. Jeff Hatch noted that county budget reductions have come to a point where further cuts will have direct consequences on the services the county provides.

"The next dollars cut will come at least half out of employee compensation and/or job losses," he said.

Salt Lake County Deputy Mayor Nicole Dunn told the council that Mayor Peter Corroon was in support of the plan, and the county's chief financial officer, Darrin Casper, also endorsed the move as appropriate as part of a bigger strategy to deal with fallout from a continued down economy.

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com