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Davis Journal

Recreation District proposed property tax increase fails

Nov 10, 2023 09:12AM ● By Becky Ginos
 Residents pack a Truth in Taxation meeting to voice their opinions on a proposed 140.54% tax increase. Ultimately, the board voted against the increase 5-3. Photo by Becky Ginos

Residents pack a Truth in Taxation meeting to voice their opinions on a proposed 140.54% tax increase. Ultimately, the board voted against the increase 5-3. Photo by Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—It was standing room only at a Truth in Taxation meeting held at the South Davis Recreation Center Monday night as the Board of Directors of the South Davis Recreation District heard comments from the public about a proposal that would increase its property tax budgeted revenue tax by 140.54%. The board voted against the proposal 5-3.

Before the public comment period, South Davis Recreation District Executive Director, Tif Miller gave a history of the District and an overview of the needs at the Rec Center that opened in 2004. “A special election was held for the citizens within the proposed South Davis Recreation District (Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Centerville, Woods Cross and West Bountiful) to vote on approving the General Obligation Bond and Operations and Maintenance Tax Levy that would be the steps to move forward with the development of the District and the South Davis Recreation Center,” Miller said. “The South Davis Recreation District was approved by a majority of the voters from the special election and in March of 2007 the 180,000 sq ft South Davis Recreation Center opened its doors.”

Miller went on to say that after 16 years the “South Davis Recreation District has never increased its tax levy and the only changes to the size of that levy have occurred through new growth.”

“The property tax levy must be paid back,” said Board member Kate Bradshaw, who represents Bountiful City. “The bond retires in 2026.”

The meeting Monday was required by state law, she said. “You must hold a Truth in Taxation to give residents a turn to voice their views about whether the tax is appropriate or not.”

Residents did just that as a long line of people formed to take their turn to speak to the board. A handful were for the increase but the majority was against it.

“This is the fifth entity who is raising taxes on my home in Centerville,” said Kyle Green. “We’re all trying to deal with COVID. I had two businesses that were closed by the government. I was put out of business in the entertainment industry. I’m still trying to recover. I’m being nickeled and dimed out of my home in Centerville.”

Green said he is paying taxes at every turn. “When we see there is another increase they say we need this, we need that. These sound like a lot of niceties not necessities. Feeding my family is a necessity.”

Home ownership is the American dream, said Dalane England. “We’re losing it. We’re taxing people out of their homes. When you make it so the public can never own a home that is a violation of the Constitution.”

Bountiful City Councilmember Richard Higginson read a letter of concern from the city in his time before the board. “We write today to express deep concern related to the 140.54% property tax increase that the South Davis Recreation District is proposing,” the letter read in part. “For two years we have watched with growing alarm as the Recreation District posted a $1.2 million loss in the last fiscal year. This follows a nearly $600,000 budget loss in the fiscal year before that.”

The power to tax is no small thing to consider and one must be aware that families always have a higher and better use for their hard-earned resources, a portion of the letter continued. “Government ought to tread as lightly as possible on the pocketbooks of their residents in their fiscal stewardship of community resources.”

With the 2021 electron cycle new mayors changed the makeup of the board, said Bradshaw. “Four new board members were appointed in 2022 by the cities. Myself, Brian Horrocks, Spencer Summerhays and Ryan Westergard. Half of the board was new and had fresh eyes on the budget which is good and healthy.”

Bradshaw said when she looked at the budget it became apparent there were budget challenges. “We needed to address those before we moved forward with a master plan.”

There needs to be accounting and tracking systems to get better data, she said. “This will help us to make thoughtful decisions of where we’re putting our resources.”

The District must pass a budget by Dec. 31, said Bradshaw. “With last night’s vote we’ll go back to the drawing board. The board heard loud and clear from the public’s comments (how they feel).”

This is a great facility, she said. “It’s something we need. We want recreation. A place where seniors can walk the track, Jr. Jazz, etc. We want a robust facility to serve the community. It’s a challenge but not one I don’t think can’t be solved by thoughtfully working together and the public weighing in.”