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The City Journals

Is another Cottonwood Heights tax raise on the horizon?

Nov 23, 2020 11:00AM ● By Cassie Goff

Taxes will always be raised. Governments just have to decide on if they’d like to raise taxes incrementally or sporadically. (Flicker)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

In 2018, the Cottonwood Heights City Council raised property taxes for the first time since its incorporation. It was one of the biggest discussions between the public, city staff members, and city council that year. Since then, the city council and staff have been approaching budget development quite differently, with various committees and personnel meeting frequently throughout the year.

One such continuous discussion focuses on the same topic from 2018: tax increases. Municipalities all over the state are experiencing shortages in revenues with expenditures ever increasing. The Cottonwood Heights City Council knows theoretically that they will have to raise taxes again in the future, but the implementation and timing of doing so practically has still yet to be decided on. 

“I want to get a holistic picture,” said Councilmember Christine Mikell. “How do you put all the pieces together from what people need while being thoughtful for all economic levels within our community?”

On Oct. 6, Administrative and Fiscal Services Director Scott Jurges presented some contextual information to the city council. One of the main questions that was asked by the council to Jurges was, “Could we do a year over year cost of living or fixed rate on tax increase?”

Jurges explained that is certainly an option, referencing the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District who both do something similar.

“I’ve pulled a lot of research on different entities, districts, and municipalities since 2011 and I’ve pulled out any years where an entity would need to do a Truth in Taxation process which would mean that they increase the tax above and beyond what the certified tax rate would be,” Jurges said.

However, if the council chose to implement a fixed rate increase every year, the process to implement a tax increment increase would have to be completed every year as well. 

“You can’t bind a future council,” he explained. “You can’t set it in place one year and have it set for every consecutive year.” 

Jurges provided an example for the council to reflect on. “The current property tax in the budget is at just over 8 million dollars. If we were to do a 1% increase, that would equate to around 80,000 dollars.”

Moving forward, the Cottonwood Heights City Council will need to decide to either increase taxes by a small percentage every year or increase taxes by a larger percentage intermittently.

“Some entities are rather sporadic with their tax increases,” Jurges said, providing examples of Murray, Sandy, Midvale, and other cities within Utah.

Luckily, the urgency to address this question has eased as the State of Utah and related municipalities have not been experiencing a decrease in revenue funding as anticipated with the global pandemic.

“It’s happily surprising that revenues haven’t dipped significantly like we feared that they would, and they’re staying relatively stable at least for the sales taxes,” said Councilmember Scott Bracken.

As budget discussions continue, Jurges will present an updated 5-year projection for the city budget with information based on the pandemic incorporated.