By Alix Zelener
Property taxes will go up slightly following the Cache County Council’s Tuesday night vote to approve the 2016 budget.
Before voting on the budget, which passed 3-to-2, council members Cory Yeates, Val Potter and Greg Merrill insisted that the entire council discuss and resolve their concerns regarding tax and spending increases.
The initial budget had a gap between revenues and costs that had to be closed through some combination of increased taxes or spending cuts. Yeates, Potter and Merrill felt that the council had relied too heavily on the idea of increasing property taxes and hadn’t looked hard enough at cuts to close the deficit.
“We were handed a budget with no cuts and a tax increase,” Potter said. “We put the budget in front of the public and the public rejected it. Out in the grocery store, out on the street, everybody I talked to is pretty ticked off about a tax increase.”
Many of the proposed increases in the budget this year came from pressure by department heads to increase funding to their departments. Yeates, Potter and Merrill felt that the council had accepted the premise that it needed to raise revenues without properly evaluating the use of those funds.
“Department heads have put pressure on the council: ‘we need all these things to provide better services, so you need to make the budget work,’ that’s their direction,” Potter said. “Citizens are putting pressure on us in the opposite direction not to raise taxes. As a council we are elected by the citizens to be their representatives here with the county, and we need to make sure we take care of them.”
In the end, the council approved a budget that was balanced by a combination of increased taxes, spending cuts and a one-time withdrawal from the general fund reserve account. $675,000 was pulled from the general fund.
That didn’t sit well with Merrill, the county vice chairman.
“We cannot continue to rely upon the general fund to make up budget shortfalls,” he said. “If we keep borrowing from that fund, at some point in time, it’s not going to be there anymore.”
Cuts to the budget included firing one full time road department employee, reducing funding $135,000 for developmental services, cutting $21,000 from the information technology budget and rolling over unused funds from this year’s water modification budget to next year. All told, the cuts equaled about $200,000.
The increase will have the effect of raising taxes on a $201,000 home by about $10.