The Salt Lake City Council approved the city’s $200 million budget yesterday, which includes an $8 million property-tax hike. The council approved the increase despite Mayor Ralph Becker’s objections.
Outgoing Councilwoman Jill Remington Love says the city has had to make tough budget decisions in the past few years. Because of a weak economy, rising health care costs and retirement, it’s now dealing with a dire structural deficit.
“We know that 1300 south is crumbling, 1700 south is crumbling, sidewalks are crumbling and alley ways are crumbling," Love says. "Another year of neglect makes it that much more expensive to repair.”
Council Chair Kyle LaMalfa pointed to Mayor Becker’s most recent State of the City Address to explain why he supported the increase.
“He quite convincingly reminded us that we have cut significantly our staffing and our programs over the years to deal with shortfalls related to the great recession," LaMalfa says. "And I believed him when he said, we can cut no further. “
Councilman Stan Penfold, out-going Councilman Carlton Christensen and Mayor Ralph Becker were determined to push back a tax increase another year.
Penfold prefaced his “no” vote, by saying he represents the most liberal district in the state and does not oppose tax increases that reflect the public’s priorities.
“We agonized for eight blocks of Sunnyside for more than a year," Penfold says. "We sent mass mailings out for the Sugar House Streetcar and debated it for months. Now in a matter of weeks, with really no meaningful public engagement that I can see we are raising taxes.”
In the next year, residents with a $250,000 home will pay nearly 70 dollars more annually. While businesses valued at a $1 million will pay nearly $500 more each year. Most of the new money will be used to tackle overdue maintenance on city streets, sidewalks and parks and restore funding to the city’s fire and police departments.
Despite the council’s veto-proof 5-2 vote, the mayor intends to submit a veto statement to the council in the next few days.