"Councilman Russ Brooks passionately countered comments made at the hearing by State Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who is head of the Utah Taxpayers Association.
Stephenson, who strongly opposed the tax hike, criticized the fact that West Valley City owns the Maverik Center and a fitness center that compete against facilities in the private sector.
"This is crazy. I've never seen anything like it. I just plead with you. Stop the direction you're going," Stephenson said."
West Valley City • The City Council on Tuesday approved an approximately 18 percent property tax hike that is projected to generate about $3.5 million more a year and cover a budget gap.
At the conclusion of a public hearing, council members voted 6-1 for a fiscal 2012 budget that includes the tax increase.
The dissenter was Mayor Mike Winder.
"I would have preferred each department take a 5.8 percent decrease than see property taxes raise 18 percent," he said.
Council members said the increase was necessary to provide needed services.
"For the services I receive, that's a fair price," Councilman Steve Vincent said.
Two speakers at the hearing supported the increase, while about a dozen spoke against it.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, head of the Utah Taxpayers Association, opposed the increase.
"I have never seen a budget and a city so off-track as West Valley City is," Stephenson said.
Councilman Russ Brooks challenged Stephenson's criticisms, saying the services provided to the citizens have turned West Valley into a "first-class city."
"We're not here just to raise taxes. We're here to provide services," Brooks said to the applause of many in the audience.
The increase will cost $5.87 per month, or $70.44 a year, on a home valued at $185,000. A business valued at $185,000 will pay $10.68 monthly, or $128.16 annually. Homes are taxed at 55 percent of their value, while businesses are taxed at 100 percent.
The city's most recent property tax increase was in 2006. The fiscal 2012 budget is approximately $63.6 million, about the same amount as in fiscal 2011.
West Valley City administrators say they have cut back and economized as much as possible during the recession and further cuts would erode the gains in the quality of life made in the past decade.
Some speakers Tuesday, including Stephenson, said they were concerned about the city's spending on UTOPIA.
UTOPIA, short for Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, was organized in 2002 by community leaders statewide who believed the private business sector was unwilling to bring high-speed Internet and other broadband services to their cities. Eleven cities have pledged more than $500 million over 32 years to back bonds to finance network construction. The pledges are based on population; the biggest municipality is West Valley City, which will pay almost $4 million in fiscal 2012 toward its total obligation of $185 million.
City Manager Wayne Pyle said even without the Utopia payment, city administrators would have considered a tax increase to address "all kinds of unfilled operational and capital needs" due to the economic downturn.
Where does the money go?
West Valley City has created an online calculator that estimates property tax bills based on the appraised value of a home, lists taxing entities and breaks down how the money is used. For example, the estimated property tax of a home appraised at $185,000 is $1,720.90, with the city's tax totalling $458.49. Of that amount, 31.46 percent is put toward police services and 12.89 percent goes to firefighting. The calculator can be found on the city website, wvc-ut.gov. Pamela A. Manson Salt Lake Tribune. August 10, 2011.