While several cities and towns in Cache County are seeking to raise their tax revenues, many are saying the increases are from holding tax rates while local populations and property values grow.
Many cities, including Lewiston, Clarkston, Hyde Park, Millville, Nibley, Richmond and Wellsville, are planning to hold their current tax rate. Because the cities would bring in more tax revenue than the year before under the same rates, Utah’s Truth in Taxation law stipulates their councils need to publicize, discuss and approve the increased revenue as tax increases, even if tax rates themselves aren’t going up.
Lewiston Mayor Kelly Field said the city is trying to hold the same tax rate it’s had for 16 years.
“The bottom line is Lewiston city attempts to maintain its tax rate at a static level to avoid dramatic tax increases that occur in many municipalities,” Field said.
Instead of those dramatic tax increases, Field said Lewiston makes minor adjustments to the tax to account for inflation.
Field said taxpayers will pay the same tax as the previous year unless their property was reappraised, which is not controlled at the city level but by the Cache County Assessor’s Office.
Kathryn Beus, a member of Nibley’s City Council, said what Nibley is doing is similar.
“Nibley city is not increasing our tax rate; rather we are holding our tax rate the same and property values have increased resulting in a larger amount of tax collected,” she said.
Richmond Mayor Jeff Young said his city is holding its tax rate as well. Young said he’s a proponent of small increases over time instead of dramatic and sudden increases.
“Everyone is paying the same rate as last year,” Young said. “If we don’t continue to hold the rate, we’re back again where we have to increase dramatically.”
Under the current Truth in Taxation law, each year a “certified rate” is determined for each tax-collecting entity. The certified rate is whatever tax rate would generate the same revenue as the previous year. If more people move in and property values increase — two trends seeing sharp increases recently in Cache County — the certified rate decreases and property owners end up paying less than they would have if cities kept rates the same. If the current tax rate is higher than the new certified rate, however, entities are required to publicize the revenue increase and conduct Truth in Taxation meetings in August.
Until a few years ago, Richmond was among the local cities that stuck to ever-decreasing certified rates rather than go through the Truth in Taxation procedures to hold its rates the same. Through 40 years of growth and inflation, the city attempted to operate on the same tax revenue, until in 2018 officials had to bite the bullet and propose a 74% increase over that year’s certified rate.
Hyde Park Mayor Charles Wheeler said Hyde Park is returning its tax rate to what it was two years ago.
Wheeler said the rate used to be .0011 and it’s currently .001078. The increase is returning the rate to .0011.
The reason for the return is because of new houses being built and adding expenses to the city, he said.
“Because of the law and the way it’s written, in order for the city to recoup the amount of money to continue the services, we have to periodically return our tax to a certain amount to cover the expenses,” Wheeler said.
Millville City Recorder Corey Twedt said Millville is increasing taxes because the city’s rate is already very low.
He said the average homeowner in Millville will only pay an additional $21 for the year, which will result in about $19,000 for the city to pay for general costs and employment needs.
“Millville will continue to have one of the lowest tax rates in the county,” Twedt said.
Clarkston Mayor Craig Hidalgo said the city was discussing a tax increase for three years and said it has been almost 12 years since the last time taxes were increased.
He said the increase was needed to address items such as a cemetery expansion, law enforcement charges, road maintenance, park improvements and developments to meet the population growth.
“None of us wanted to, but unfortunately we unanimously reached the conclusion that it needed to happen,” Hidalgo said. “If we are going to meet the needs of our citizens and adequately prepare for the future, we must increase taxes, and unfortunately it will likely be on a more regular basis than it has been in the past.”
Dianna Schaeffer, Cache County’s chief deputy auditor, said these are some of the highest increases she’s ever seen.
According to Utah’s Truth in Taxation law, cities are required to hold public meetings to explain the reason for the tax increases and to allow residents to comment.
Schaeffer said she highly encourages people to go to these meetings.
“We strongly encourage the citizens to attend their hearing as this is the only opportunity to be heard by their elected official and only opportunity for officials to explain the reason for tax increase before it is implemented,” she said.
Clarkston’s public hearing will be Aug. 18, Hyde Park on Aug. 25, Lewiston on Aug. 19, Millville on Aug. 12, Nibley on Aug. 26, Richmond on Aug. 17, and Wellsville on Aug. 3.
Herald Journal staff writer Steve Kent contributed to this report.