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Davis Journal

Kaysville still has the fourth-lowest property taxes in the county

May 02, 2024 09:19AM ● By Cindi Mansell

The aim of the city is to create a budget that achieves balance, sustainability, and accountability and manages the use of the city’s assets and resources for cost-effective and efficient delivery of services while maintaining the expected level of service.

If household budgets are important, consider an entire municipal budget. Annually, the Kaysville City Council approves a budget for the following fiscal year, in accordance with Utah State Law. This budget is used during the following year to manage the financial operations of the city. The council gathers at the beginning of each year (over the course of several months and spending countless hours in work sessions) to review and discuss plans for the upcoming year. “More specifically, to look at where the city is in the current budget and what to expect going into the next fiscal year.” This year was different in that staff hosted multiple work sessions with the council, with each session focused on a specific area of the budget.  “The way the budget is being presented this year is appreciated as they can focus on different sections of the budget one at a time,” Mayor Tamara Tran said.

The city saw more revenue than what was budgeted for in many categories; however, there were some areas where the city ended up paying much more than expected. Kaysville still has the fourth-lowest property taxes in the county. One large issue facing Kaysville (and many others) is inflationary costs. Although sales and revenue taxes may have increased, costs to provide services have also increased. The council also must consider programs and costs such as software subscriptions, street repairs and maintenance, fleet replacement, police and fire vehicles and equipment, and capital improvements.

In 2023, the City Council approved a 5% power rate adjustment due to the substantial increase in power costs. In considering the costs from FY 2023 to FY 2024, there is justification for another 5% power rate adjustment to help cover the cost of power. The Utah Associate Municipal Power Systems group (UAMPS) has predicted the cost for power resources will increase by 40% over the next 10 years. Other power items considered were the need to construct two additional power substations as well as address old wire that had been buried over 50 years ago without conduit. There is also the need to acquire additional or diverse power to match peak power generation. 

Kaysville considers their employees as one of their most valuable resources, and there are costs associated with cost-of-living market adjustments as well as health insurance. Last year, the council decided to implement a freeze on any new staff positions, despite departments requesting additional staffing. Although it is anticipated that similar requests for additional staffing will be seen in this year’s budget, it would be challenging to approve any kind of additional staffing due to the lack of a significant difference in revenue compared to last year’s budget. 

When the staff and council look at capital projects and infrastructure, they examine planned projects for the next couple of years, their financing, and the city’s priorities for the future. It is imperative to strategize for these projects, considering potential challenges and limitations. While consultants are relied upon for major projects, the city aims to internalize construction management and simpler design aspects to reduce costs. Projects can also be executed at various levels, prioritizing essential elements over aesthetic features. 

There are three primary sources of revenue that the city receives in public works, which include the road fund, water fund, and stormwater fund. The road fund is a special revenue fund, comprising revenue from the Class C Road funds, the road utility fee charged to ratepayers, and the Local Option Active Transportation tax, which is a sales tax. The city actively pursues grants; many grants focus on traffic safety compliance, whereas fewer grants are available for waterline or sewer line replacement. Integrating active transportation and ADA compliance safety components into projects offers better opportunities for structured grants. However, grant competition is fierce, and there is no guarantee of receiving additional grants. 

The city’s water infrastructure is the area of most concern for Public Works. There have been advancements in the type of equipment used and the city’s updated technical standards indicate the need for updates. The accounting for the water fund and power fund is done differently than enterprise accounting, which includes depreciation and spreads out the large capital costs. Revenue into the water fund comes from utility fees, which are used for operating costs, capital projects, maintenance, and operations, purchasing water from Weber Basin Water, and other expenses. Staff noted that if you compare the water fund's base revenue to its operating expenses, it is operating at a loss, indicating the need for outside help to break even. This warrants a discussion about the possibility of increasing water fees, as the fund is becoming reliant on outside funding from year to year. 

The stormwater fund budget is also funded through utility fees. This budget is like the water fund, in that the funds are used toward operating expenses, any capital projects, maintenance and operations, and other expenses. Looking at previous years, it indicates that the council needs to consider adjusting stormwater fund rates. 

When the council looked at city buildings and park improvements, projects included the design for a memorial garden in the cemetery directly behind the cemetery offices and occupying half an acre of land (expected to accommodate about 1,200 urns). This memorial garden, intended for cremations, would help to address the increasing trend of cremations since 2018. With the city cemetery being landlocked, creating a dedicated space for cremation urns will be beneficial in anticipating running out of burial plots for sale (within the next decade based on current trends). 

There are also multiple park projects and upgrades underway as well as the potential to form a partnership and construct a gymnasium with the school district, where the school would utilize the gymnasium during school hours and the city could access the facility during evenings and weekends primarily for city recreation programs. City staff views the gymnasium partnership as a high priority. 

Constructing a standalone recreation center would entail significantly higher costs and it may prove more prudent for the city to establish a partnership. Ongoing maintenance costs could also be shared through such a partnership. Despite community interest in amenities like a pool, previous attempts to secure funding through bonds were unsuccessful as residents voted against it. Pools incur substantial ongoing expenses, particularly in terms of maintenance costs. Their upkeep is challenging and economically impractical for the city due to their high expense. “The school district has approached cities to explore potential partnerships for building a pool,” Tran said. “However, most cities, including Kaysville, have declined due to the financial burden involved. It is possible that the school district will proceed with constructing a pool independently. 

When posed the question as to whether it is a higher priority for the city to construct a power facility or a second fire station, although both are equally important to the city, if forced to choose between priorities, staff would likely prioritize improvements to the Operations Center and the construction of a power facility over a new fire station. Building a second fire station at this time would cost approximately $11 million, and staffing the station would entail an ongoing expense of $1.8 million. An alternative approach would be expanding the current fire station to accommodate more staff and resources. With the city’s demographic profile and call patterns, this solution could effectively address service demands while managing costs more efficiently.

Once city staff has provided the council with the most accurate information regarding the city’s needs, it becomes the council’s responsibility to consider budget gaps and establish priorities. Stay tuned to review those priorities when the city’s tentative budget is unveiled and becomes available for the public to review on May 16, 2024. The council will hold a public hearing on June 6, 2024, and could potentially adopt the final budget by mid-June, should the council choose not to hold a Truth and Taxation hearing. If a Truth in Taxation hearing is held, it will be held at the beginning of August prior to the final budget being approved. To see previous budget documents, visit