Local Issues, Politics, Taxes

Evaluate Property Tax – Good Place to Cut

Click to see original imageIn a recent speech in Provo, Gov. Calvin L. Rampton said he regards local government as the most important element of the government structure because it is closer to the people and its actions have the most direct effect on people.

“If your sewer line becomes plugged, it is more important to you to get that fixed immediately than whether Henry Kissinger has established detente with the Russians,” he suggested.

Local governments have not been assigned the dramatic tasks, and in fact most are rather mundane, the state’s chief executive continued. He admitted that local governments have been starved of funds but he said this is mainly been due to the fact that they have relied too heavily on the property tax.

He called property taxes unfair, indiscriminate and a very bad tax system, and he issued an interesting challenge to city and county leaders.

He suggested that a move be started to totally eliminate property taxes over the next 20 to 25 years. “The state has gotten out of that business already.” he said.

As alternate financing systems he suggested sales taxes, local government income taxes, and user fees.

He is encouraging local governments to take advantage of the quarter cent sales tax the legislature approved in the last session and to reduce the property tax a little. He indicated the Salt Lake City Commission has agreed to reduce property tax three mills.

The governor took occasion to challenge Mayor Russell D. Grange to consider similar action in the city’s upcoming budget setting process.

Currently, Provo’s property tax rate is the highest in Utah County so the governor may just have chosen the right mayor to challenge.

Provo’s own tax levy is 27 mills and the Provo School District’s levy is 53.32 mills, the two combining for the lion’s share of the composite total of 91.82 mills Provo residents pay. (The county, Central Utah Water Conservancy District and city library levies are others included in the total).

Provo, of course, is not far ahead of a number of other Utah County cities, including Lehi at 88.35 mills (composite), Pleasant Grove, 87.85; Salem, 84.60, and Orem, 84.46.

In recent years cities have been the beneficiaries of a number of dollar-producing programs which have boosted their operating revenues considerably. Revenue sharing under two different programs, a variety of federal planning grants, state housing funds, federal ambulance funds, special employment funds, and a variety of others are on the list.

With all cities beginning to think about the 1975-76 fiscal year budget, perhaps it is time to urge fiscal conservatism at the local level, and to suggest that wherever possible large purchases be delayed and taxes be trimmed.

And perhaps the property tax would be a good place to start.