Property tax hike approved, public hearing scheduled
Jul 16, 2018 11:35AM
● By Shaun Delliskave
Murray portion of a typical homeowners property tax will increase 45 percent and thus raise their total property tax bill by 5-6 percent. (Graph courtesy: Murray City)
It has been since 2006 that Murray city leaders have adjusted property tax revenue, and property owners can expect to see a 45 percent hike starting in 2018. Approval for the tax increase took place at the June 12 city council meeting and a public hearing was announced about the tax levy rate on Aug. 14, 6:30 p.m. at city hall.
Many residents have argued that they actually have seen their taxes increase during the past 12 years. However, Danyce Steck, finance director for Murray City, clarified, “Truth-in-Taxation laws regulate the amount of property tax the City is allowed to collect to the same amount it collected the previous year. This amount increases with actual new growth, but does not adjust for any changes in valuation for existing properties unless it goes through a public process. So even if values go through the roof, the City’s total property tax revenue will remain the same. It may change property by property, but overall the entire amount we are allowed to collect remains the same.”
Other taxing entities, such as Murray or Granite School Districts, Salt Lake County, and mosquito abatement districts, can affect property taxes. “We had one commercial property owner attend our neighborhood meeting last week who said property taxes on her property had increased by 62 percent in just three years. When I did the research, I found the assessed value of the property had increased by over 86 percent since 2014,” Steck said. “This is certainly not usual, and I’m not sure if there were improvements on her property or other factors in the value increasing so dramatically. We did notify this owner of our findings and let them know that they had a right to appeal the assessed value with the county assessor if they felt it was unfair or incorrect.”
Murray’s tax increase will generate $2.9 million in new revenue; $2.3 million of that will go to pay for changes in salaries and benefits for firefighters and police officers. That amount will also cover the cost to hire an additional battalion fire chief, two crossing guards at Riverview Junior High School, and a school resource officer for the American International School of Utah. Another $480,000 will be used for the construction of Fire Station 8.
According to the city’s website, the years between 2008 and 2015 were especially difficult for the city, with expenditures exceeding revenue each of those years. The only way the gap was filled and the city remained sustainable was with transfers from utility (Murray Power and Water) funds. In 2016, city officials imposed a local-option sales tax of 0.2 percent, which temporarily filled most of the gap for maintenance. However, priorities that were postponed for so long have now become more critical.
The city council approved a 55 percent tax increase for the Murray Library, which last received an increase in revenue in 2006. The Library Board intends to build reserves to support the construction of a new library within five years, as it does not currently own the land it is located on. If relocation is decided against, then the funds will be used for building improvements. City officials have stressed that even with the tax increase, Murray residents will still pay a lower rate than Salt Lake County or Salt Lake City residents.
Finally, the city council gave approval for an $8.6 million water bond that will be paid back over 20 years. The city will essentially borrow this money to complete projects such as a water-lift station for the Walden Glen subdivision on the west side of Murray, a power substation re-build, two well replacements, and storm water drain-line upsizing.