Local Swamp: Bountiful City Not Only Wastes Citizens Tax Money But Surrounding Cities’ As Well

A few months ago, Bountiful city council politicians voted to go forward with yet another “revitalization” project for Main Street. That’s code for blowing tax money on some pet project they like or special interests lobby for (AKA, pork). These projects are usually well outside the scope of core and appropriate government function but rationalized away. Once approved, the funding schemes begin.

In this case, Bountiful City is going to put in some unnecessary plaza and has decided to include an “ice ribbon” (narrow outdoor skating area) which will double as a roller skating facility once the ice is off. So, the city is taking your money to pay for someone else’s hobby/fun.

Now the funding scheme. Besides blowing Bountiful families’ and fixed income residents’ money on this, the Mayor (Randy Lewis) has managed to secure money from Centerville, West Bountiful, Woods Cross and North Salt Lake residents. He was able to do this because he serves on the recreation district board with other mayors (this is key). The board voted to have the recreation district pay half of the operation, maintenance and repair costs for the ice ribbon (that includes a Zamboni to resurface the ice) for the next 30 years. Thus they voted to use the recreation district’s taxpayer funds for Bountiful’s benefit.

Why would the other mayors take taxpayer money from the district to, in effect, supplement Bountiful’s budget? It comes down to back scratching and the time-tested political stunt of accountability dilution (spreading the blame). The other mayors know that Mayor Lewis will vote to cough up recreation district taxpayer money for their future pet projects (back scratching). Since ‘the board members’ voted for the wasteful spending and to supplement another city’s tax revenues, each mayor can say it was a board decision and dilute their culpability when citizens question the spending.

Not only are Bountiful residents on the hook for this project but surrounding cities’ residents are also tied to it for the next 30 years. Now that’s what I call government efficiency!

For what it’s worth, this is the same recreation district board also recently voted themselves a “salary” (politicians who pushed for the recreation center “promised” the board would be an unpaid position) and gave their whole household free annual recreation center passes.

Finally, I’m tired of hearing all the conservative virtue signalling about fiscal responsibility, respect of families, and individual accountability in Bountiful. It’s bunk. When push comes to shove, many are happy to turn to government and demand you pay for something they think is cool but don’t want to pay for or are too lazy/entitled to or ask for voluntary donations/cooperation. It’s that voluntary cooperation that creates a true community that cares – not rationalizing and forcing people to pay for fun perks. Bountiful definitely isn’t conservative. It’s all hat, no cattle.

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Bountiful Raises Property Taxes While Higginson Spouts Low Tax Sophistry

Just a quick update that on Tuesday, the Bountiful City Council unanimously voted to raise the property tax.

I want to note first, that the Police Chief deserves credit for fiscal responsibility and respect of tax money. While facing labor issues (lack of pay, staffing shortfalls etc), he made hard decisions and slashed various budgets and programs to maintain the core mission. Some of the things he had to cut probably didn’t help city security (note: that’s my opinion, he didn’t say that).

He’s a contrast to the Bountiful tax-and-spend city council. While he was prioritizing and struggling to keep a fundamental role of government going, the city councils and mayors (current and prior) were blowing money on unnecessary pet projects and special interest butt kissing. I have a partial summary of their ‘priorities’ which didn’t include properly funding the police department in my prior post on this tax increase. But, hey, their track record on prioritizing funding for core government functions kinda sucks.

Apparently during the meeting, Councilman Richard Higginson spouted the comical spin that Bountiful is the second lowest taxes city of Davis County cities. It’s bunk. He’s full of crap.

I won’t rehash it; the city hides the real tax rate in their power rate/fee manipulation (click the prior tax increase link for details – they’re in that post). Once accounted for, you can compare apples to apples on tax rates and Bountiful is NOT the second lowest. Period.

Lastly, I am disappointed in Kendalyn Harris. She’s touted as the ‘conservative’ voice on the council. Yet nary a peep comes out of her on these issues and she’s steamrolled into voting for the dumb Main Street Plaza. That didn’t change here. She didn’t call out Higginson for his drivel, didn’t call for following the chief’s example and slashing wasteful city programs (or having users pay for them) and just voted for the increase.

Oh, and for the record, we should again thank Representative Ray Ward (who city council members endorsed, naturally) for supporting the bill that forced part of this tax increase.

Bountiful’s 2018 Property Tax Increase (Bountiful City And Ray Ward Heaping More Tax Increases On Families)

You’ve either received or will soon receive a glossy tax increase notice from Bountiful City. They are planning on jacking up your property tax rate. Part of this is thanks to Representative Ray Ward having a voracious appetite for tax increase schemes (like the homeless offset through 2018 SB235 and property tax games). However, this also comes on the heels of:

There are a few other increases that I think I’m missing but I don’t have time and you get the gist.

City politicians, however, say we have some critical stuff to fund like roads and police. Funny thing is we already have the money but local politicians and special interests don’t want to give up their pet projects. As I said when we faced the 4000% increase for fire service, the money was flushed:

[Politicians] had other big priorities like Recreation Centers, RAP taxes, theaters, plazas* and fun attempts at new city halls, skate parks, museums, art centers, street cars and other crap I don’t remember anymore.

I also missed the forced recycling fee (which Ray Ward lobbied for). It’s garbage…literally. With China calling it quits on recycling junk, we’re literally paying an extra fee for garbage.

No wonder so many city leaders endorsed Ray Ward. Talk about scratching each others’ backs.

Finally, the offensive “Bountiful has 2nd lowest individual tax rate of the 15 Davis County cities” falsehood. It’s total shell game Beeee Essss:

Bountiful uses the city power department to cloak the actual tax/government burden by manipulating rates and fees as an additional revenue stream into the general fund that isn’t subject to truth in taxation. As I’ve demonstrated here and several city politicians (and a former city manager) acknowledge, without the cloaked power tax, actual tax rates would be roughly doubled**.

Go back to the tax chart the city placed on the tax notice. If you double the rate (from 0.000832 to ~0.0016) to account for the transfer from the power company (thus comparing apples-to-apples with other cities), Bountiful ends up in the top 5 highest taxed in Davis county (about tied with Kaysville!).

Why would I get excited about Kaysville? Because Kaysville used to also use it’s municipal power company to manipulate rates and cloak taxes. Citizens figured out the game and forced an end to the practice. The result was Kaysville’s tax rate went up to it’s real (unhidden) level. This near rate match between Bountiful’s adjusted rate and Kaysville’s rate lends more credence that the above doubling is valid.

The open house is at City Hall on July 19 at 6PM and the official public meeting is at City Hall on August 7, 2018 at 7PM. Good luck.

*Addendum: Here’s some irony for you. The city is hiring two workers for their frivolous plaza. Meanwhile, the city is justifying part of the tax increase to hire two new police officers.

**Addendum 2: Another analysis by Ron Mortensen combined the revenue from property tax and the power transfer to calculate the actual rate results in a rate of 0.001361 (pre increase) 0.001448  (post increase) or about equivalent to North Salt Lake  (a couple of cities behind Kaysville) and in the middle of the other cities (certainly not second lowest).

Bountiful City Mayor And Council: Pet Project Priority Precedes People Protection

Who knew? We live in a utopia in Bountiful where there’s no such thing as opportunity cost. Well, at least if you’re a local politician, that is.

This is really a tale about all South Davis mayors and city councils (North Salt Lake, West Bountiful, Woods Cross, Centerville) and applies to many more in state, county  and city governments. I just decided to focus on Bountiful. We will soon be paying more property tax…again. This time we’re on the hook for a higher county tax (~22% increase), library tax (~20% increase), and South Davis Metro Fire tax: Despite push back, Metro tax increase approved. At least it’s only a 4000% increase. No that’s not a type-0.

Here’s the game the cities played. I attended the above meeting. As the Fire Chief noted, about a decade or so ago South Davis cities set up a special fire district. When they did so, they had to set a tax rate, however the initial rate they set would have to be offset by a reduction in city taxes to keep the overall tax burden on citizens the same. So, what did the cities and new district do when faced with funding a core/critical function of government?….. Yep, they set the lowest possible rate so politicians wouldn’t have to man up and cut anything (even temporarily). Then they let things fester for years because they had other big priorities like Recreation Centers, RAP taxes, theaters, plazas and fun attempts at new city halls, skate parks, museums, art centers, street cars and other crap I don’t remember anymore.

A decade or so down the line, surprise! We have ourselves a crisis of fire buildings in disrepair, personnel retention issues, increasing response times (and risk to life) and responders not being able to follow recommended staffing guidelines for emergency response. Well, this is a crisis, indeed and now we need to fix it, ergo 4000% increase.

But there’s a silver lining: since it’s not the initial tax rate, this time the tax rate doesn’t have to be offset by a reduction in city taxes! No, thank goodness young families and the elderly on fixed incomes who account for opportunity cost in family budgets will have to dole out more cash and our local politicians can keep their budgets focused on the important things. I mean, who really wants to be known for telling special interests to pay for their own fun and just funding mundane critical needs like streets, police and fire? Booooring!

No, far better to be known for the special unnecessary neat-o projects you can affix your name to (a legacy!) with fun ceremonies that ignore those who were forced to pay for it all.

 

Addendum: If you read the Clipper article a lady mentioned “Our Schools Now” also barking at our doors for more taxes. Please be aware of the math game they are playing and don’t fall for it.

South Davis Taxpayers Tapped To Pay For Politician, Special Interest Spending

I’m going to keep this short and simple. We have another tax increase we’re being told is necessary. This time it’s actually for something that is a core government function. From the Clipper article (Tax increase meant to benefit residents, firefighters):

Last week the South Davis Metro Fire Agency proposed a property tax increase to cover critical needs in staffing and equipment.  Some residents may be asking why since there was already an increase last year.

As I Gabbed when I saw the article:

If tax increase is so critical, why did #BountifulCity and so many other cities blow tax money on oodles of stuff outside the scope of core government functions?

Normally, I would vote for this increase. Not this time. City politicians can cut some of their pet projects’ funding and forgo other pet projects (city hall, plaza, RAP tax, theaters, rec centers, etc. etc….) first. They blab about the urgency they themselves create by tapping us out for their wasteful projects and the non core government projects special interests convince them they “need”. If it’s so urgent, lets see them drop a couple these “skunks” just like a family has to cut some fluff when a pressing issue comes up.

UPDATE: See my latest post on the outcome of the tax.

Bountiful Halts City Hall Project For Now, Looks To Keep Plaza Boondoggle

Some good news. The Bountiful City Council has pulled back and stopped the new city hall project and will shortly cancel the contracts for it. From the Better Bountiful group that opposed the project:

The Better Bountiful Committee and its many supporters welcome the Bountiful City Council’s decision to cancel their plans to build a new city hall.  The City Council and Mayor have heard the voices of the people and will now invest funds to properly maintain our current City Hall rather than abandon it.  That is a decision we welcome.   We particularly appreciate those City leaders who took the time to listen and discuss the matter with us.

All major plans involving taxpayers’ money are always best accomplished when citizens are allowed a voice at the ballot box. We assume the City Council will apply that principle to the proposed Downtown City Plaza, major infrastructure improvements, and all other similar plans going forward.

The city council also sent out a release citing the reason for the cancellation was to “promote community harmony over the new building.” Hopefully that’s the case but I doubt the motives are so pure. As Fox 13 notes: “The lawsuit was the tipping point for the city.” The city council also held a special (previously unscheduled) closed session meeting to discus “pending litigation” on February 21 (6 days before the release).

The city council plans on continuing with the next pet project (the plaza) and certainly doesn’t appear to embrace Better Bountiful’s request that residents be able to vote on it: “The Downtown Plaza will also remain a priority, and will require a new contract to complete.” They continue to justify this by saying it’ll ‘revitalize Main Street’. People aren’t going to go shop there because of a cute plaza or gleaming city hall and Main St. isn’t in disrepair (it’s a pretty, quaint area). Besides locals, Main St. is a hassle to get to and doesn’t have any store(s) to draw significant traffic to the area. It will remain a local shopping area unless something drastic happens (think huge project redeveloping a massive area and road infrastructure). The constant pet projects gambits justified by saying “revitalize Main St.” are tiring.

I’ve said it many times. Politicians don’t give up on pet project easily. They won’t hear either. I’m glad the new city hall was stopped but one to point one last thing out: Milton Friedman continues to be proven right, these unnecessary pet projects rarely fail despite opposition. As Better Bountiful notes:

This outcome is a reflection of many hundreds of hours of hard work, many thousands of dollars, and some of the best community teamwork…

Read the above linked post and you’ll understand why that quote proves Friedman right despite this being one of the rare successes by “diffused interests”. If you don’t see the connection, drop a comment or use the contact page.

In the meantime, enjoy the success. Ultimately, the only way to have a lasting success is to elect local/state/national representatives who respect limiting government to core functions.

Food: A New Sin Tax For Utah?

That’s right. I’m going to say it again: Food is perfectly eligible as a sin tax.

…and by sin, I’m referring to the politician’s and crony organizations’ sin.

Utah legislators are contemplating raising taxes on food because they’re worried about a budget shortfall. It’s funny how that may be the case after we’ve spent, bonded and redirected who knows how many millions or billions on crap outside the proper role of government. I guess all those cute ‘it only costs a tenth/half percent of the budget or it’s just a few dollars a day’ projects add up and you start to fall short for important stuff…like more useless projects government shouldn’t be involved with.

Rather than just slapping everyone with another tax hike, maybe they should look at cutting some of the crony capital junk (UTA, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce front group boondoggles come to mind, among others). How about also ditching wasteful incremental budgeting with all it’s skunks, while your at it?

On the local level, we keep hearing that RDAs for a new, unnecessary city hall building won’t raise taxes. As I said in the past, it’s robing Peter to pay Paul and the piper will come calling when taxing entities find they’ve fallen short of money because the RDA etc. ate some of it up. The above is another example of the fallacy of the city council’s argument.

Finally, politicians don’t own all the guilt. The public (you and I) will band together to form groups demanding stuff like recreation centers, theaters, RAP taxes which impose on budgets and, ultimately, on families. Hopefully, we’ll consider the propriety and whether it’s a core governmental function or not next time we want something, else we’re our own worst enemy.