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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Community Preservation vote is around the corner!

Photo taken by Laura Seitz, Deseret News
After decades of annexations, which created declining tax base and uncertainty in using taxpayer dollars for infrastructure and economic development, Salt Lake County officials went to the Legislature last year to create a new form of government – metro townships. Senate Bill 199 also allowed for an election this fall so residents could determine for themselves the kind of government they want in their area.

Ballots will be mailed at the beginning of October and five townships (Magna, Kearns, Millcreek, White City, and Emigration Canyon) will decide if they want to become a city or a metro township. Copperton will decide to be a town or a metro township. Other unincorporated “islands” will decide if they want to stay unincorporated or annex to an adjacent city. 

We all understand what a city is – there are many cities in Salt Lake County with different forms of government. The main difference between a city and a metro township is that a city can charge franchise taxes and property taxes, if elected leaders so choose. Both forms of government will have five elected officials to represent the residents of that community. They both could continue to share sales tax revenue with other townships, cities, unincorporated islands, and parcels of land such as the canyons and Kennecott. (Kennecott will not be in the municipal services district, but the county council intends to forward those sales tax funds to the municipal service district.) With a city, the newly elected officials will have six months to opt out of sharing revenues and services with the municipal services district. With a metro township, they would continue to share revenues/services if voters vote “Yes” on the second ballot question to stay in the municipal services district. If a city or metro township is not in the municipal services district, they would need to self-provide or contract for their own services.

The municipal services district (MSD) is a local service district. It would be governed similar to Unified Police Department, Unified Fire Authority or Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District.
Those who choose to stay in the MSD will share sales tax revenue and pay for public works, animal control, and the other municipal services currently provided by Salt Lake County. Doing it this way allows elected representatives from each of the townships, cities and unincorporated areas to sit on the board and make the budgetary and servicing decisions.

Some have asked what the impact to taxpayers would be. If a newly created city or metro township opts to stay in the MSD, tax decisions will be made by MSD board comprised by representatives from member communities. If they do not participate in the MSD, then the newly elected leaders would make taxing decisions. Either way, the decisions of these elected representatives could result in changes to your taxes. The future will be in the hands of elected officials in your individual communities, which is why it’s important for residents to be involved in this ballot initiative AND future elections of council members, who will represent them directly.

All residents would still receive the same services for police, fire and sanitation, except for those in the “islands” that choose to annex to a neighboring city.

For years our unincorporated areas have been chipped away through annexations when neighboring cities have cherry picked revenue-producing areas. This has created a lot of instability as sales tax revenues are also taken away when commercial areas are annexed. It has made county leaders hesitant to put taxpayer dollars in a community’s infrastructure or economic development for fear that a neighboring city may take it away. SB 199 or “Community Preservation” is all about giving residents local representation and self-determination so communities can re-invest and continue to be a great place to live.  For more information, see

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tax dollars need to be spent wisely on art

(Photo credit: Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Recently the Salt Lake Tribune did a story about the county council discussing funding for art in new county buildings. Our current county ordinance says that up to 1 percent of a building budget may be allocated for art.

I struggled with this when we were discussing an open space bond. If we are asking residents to pay for open space, parks, trails, and recreation through a general obligation bond, I want to make sure those dollars stretch as far as possible for those particular uses.

I believe there is community value in having nice buildings and public art. Art and culture in a community enhance education, improve quality of life, and attract businesses who are looking for a great place to locate employees and grow.

But should there be a 1 percent art allocation for every county building? I don't believe so.

Right now this ordinance is interpreted as a hard and fast rule and the full 1 percent is spent, even in non-public buildings. (The Salt Lake County Fleet Building is a prime example.) When future county buildings are built, we need to use a common sense approach and allocate art funding based on public use.

I support having art in our libraries, senior centers, and other places where it benefits the public. We want to have nice buildings that enhance a community. Even in those instances, 1 percent may be too much, depending on the project. I believe we need to take it on a case-by-case basis.