Monday, August 07, 2006

Iron County Tax Increase - Not adding up

UPDATE: I have had several people contact me, asking if I am against the Lake Powell Pipeline. I need to clarify that while I am not inherently *against* the pipeline, I would like to learn more about the proposed plan and gain a better understanding of how this is all going to work. I am a proponent of smart growth, so long as the environment is considered and we are looking to the future... that is, every single thing that we do in government must be done with future generations in mind. We absolutely must consider how it will impact our children and our children's children, the air that they breath and the land on which they will live.

The post that follows really is more directed to my opponent who seems to think that as an elected senator, he could have stopped this tax increase from happening... except that he is a county commissioner who appointed the board who levied the tax in the first place. I'm curious how that all would have worked out.


If you live in Iron County and haven't heard about the recent 1300% water district / property tax hike and the surrounding uproar, you are probably living under a rock, and not in Iron County.

It goes something like this: Last year, the water conservancy district charged a .000094 tax rate. So on a $200,000 property with a 45-percent exclusion, taxpayers paid $10.34 to the district.

After Senate Bill 111 passed in March, the water district can charge a rate of .001. So on the same $200,000 property, homeowners will pay $110. By the way, Sen. Tom Hatch sponsored the bill and it passed 26 /3 - the 3 representatives not present on voting day include Southern Utah Sens. Hatch and Hickman. (I thought that was an interesting sidebar, just a little food for thought.)

So regarding this 1300% tax increase - the community is outraged, as well it should be. Many Iron County residents say this is called "taxation without representation" and many are wondering why a water board, appointed by our county commissioners, has the authority to tax residents in the first place?

An Interesting Twist

In the midst of all the hullabaloo, my Republican opponent has told people that if elected to the Utah Senate, he will reign in the water board, and make certain that citizens don't get these crazy tax hikes.

I think that's a great campaign promise. People will probably listen to him and they will probably like that. Gosh, I would like to say the same thing... so I'll say it now "if elected to the Utah Senate, I promise to reign in the water board and make sure that you, Joe Taxpayer, don't have to be subjected to crazy tax hikes."

However, as great of a campaign promise that it is, I am still wondering where Mr. Commissioner was when the tax hike came down in the first place?

From my research, the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District has been talking about a huge tax levy since its budget hearing in December 2005. Where was the commissioners' outrage then? You would think that at least a County Commissioner should have known what was coming down the pike. And as outraged as he said he is, he should have been yelling his head off about it. Instead, he gives the impression that he was just as shocked as everyone else... even IF it was his buddy Tom Hatch who wrote the bill that allowed for the tax increase in the first place. He really didn't know this was going to happen? I have a hard time believing that.

I'm not a water expert and I don't have all of the information YET about how this all works. However, it seems to me an idle campaign promise to say that you can't "reign in the water district" until you're the senator...why don't you have this power already when you are a part of the commission that appoints the members to the board? And so, while it is frustrating that the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District can impose taxes on Iron County residents without our input, it is even more difficult to understand why the County Commissioners didn't do something about it when it first hit the fan.

There will be a lot of opinions on this subject in the coming weeks and I promise I will be watching this issue like a hawk. I also would like to hear someone's opinion on why the County Commissioners AND the Water District didn't think it was necessary to do a better job in preparing us for this huge blow.


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