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S.L. council eases tax pressure on homeowners

SHARE S.L. council eases tax pressure on homeowners

SALT LAKE CITY— As was widely expected, the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday took a bit of tax pressure off homeowners in a year where most will still see significant increases in property levies.

The council voted unanimously to remove $1.1 million in assessments that are at the core of an ongoing dispute with Salt Lake County over taxation for emergency services.

Councilman Carlton Christensen said that while it seemed appropriate to make the change, pending resolution of wrangling with the county, tax increases were a definite future possibility.

"I think we were prudent in establishing the levy … but it's clear to me we will not be resolving it any time soon," Christensen said. "Going forward, we're likely to see some tax increases."

Those increases may be necessary to cover ongoing expenses, including some public safety positions that are currently being paid for with federal grant money.

Homeowners will get a bit of a break, about $18 on a $235,000 home, but most will still see an increase in excess of $100 on an average priced ($254,000) home.

That jump is mostly due to two municipal bonds starting their payback cycles this year. One, a $15.3 million bond for a city soccer/recreational complex was approved by voters in 2003. The other, $125 million for the construction of a new public safety building, was approved at the polls in 2009. The two issues together will require about $9 million in debt service in the coming year.

The council also voted for a final sign-off on the fiscal 2009-10 budget. While finding some $20 million in savings over last year, two council members weren't happy with the board's accounting and voted against the measure.

Both Councilmen Luke Garrott and Soren Simonsen voiced their disappointment with the elimination of youth programs in the budget process. Garrott also characterized the final package as one that was "shortsighted" and relied only on cuts without creating any new tax revenue.

"We'll run into the same problem when sales tax revenues decrease again … being that we have squeezed the blood from this stone for three years now," Garrott said. "We're choosing to pay later and not pay now, which is going to be much more difficult."

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com