The Salt Lake City Council gave preliminary approval to a $7 million tax increase last night despite opposition from Mayor Ralph Becker. Members of the council say overdue maintenance can no longer be ignored.
Salt Lake City Council Chair Kyle Lamalfa says while Mayor Becker’s budget proposal was lean and balanced it left out a few key items.
“What was not included in the budget was, and what has been missing for a very long time is ordinary maintenance of our roads, of our sidewalks, of our parks," Lamalfa says.
Some council members pointed out that the city has avoided large-scale layoffs and reductions in pay during the economic downturn by scaling back on maintenance, but Lamalfa says making further cuts would be irresponsible.
“We need to start catching up or else it’s really going to cost us big bucks in the long run," Lamalfa says.
Under the proposed tax hike, Salt Lake City Residents with a $200,000 home will pay an additional $47.52 annually. Businesses valued at a million dollars will shell out an additional $432 a year.
Lamalfa says even with the new revenue, almost every department will have to make cuts, but police and fire budgets will be made whole.
In a straw poll, council members voted 5-2 for the increase, with Councilmen Stan Penfold and Carlton Christensen voting no.
That’s enough votes to avoid an anticipated veto from Mayor Ralph Becker, who says city operations are not sustainable, but he’d hoped the council would spend the next year weighing the options and engaging the public.
“To really assess how we can find the revenues to meet our public’s expectations and then make a decision without grabbing a number out of the air, which is kind of how I feel the council is operating," Becker says.
He notes property tax revenues have gone down and sales tax revenues have made only slight gains, while retirement and fuel costs continue to soar.
The city council has not raised property taxes since Becker took office in 2008.
The council is expected to hold a final vote on the proposed increase next Tuesday.