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.

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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.

Bountiful City Council Sophistry For Their New City Hall

A bit over a month ago, I warned that Bountiful City Council had begun another foray at getting their new city hall. A few days ago I got their glossy propaganda pamphlet telling my why I should be happy to see $21 Million more in taxes be spent so “visionary” politicians can put their names on new projects paid for by taxpayers. The pamphlet’s rationale is simply absurd:

The author attempts to justify a new city hall as an economic driver for Main Street. I’m sorry, a new city hall is not a tourist attraction. The same clients coming for permits are not going to all-of-a-sudden start burning cash on Main St. because city hall has a new car smell. Private business is an economic driver, not pretty new government buildings with no additional services.

Further, Main street is not an easily accessible area and unless they want to gut blocks of city to totally restructure the roads from I-15, it will remain the same. This ‘revitalizing Main St’ shtick as a justification for pet projects that have been going on for well over a decade. Enough already.

Other justifications for the spending include a plaza for chalk art, a car show, and undefined community events. All seem like they would qualify for the RAP Tax we already pay (they’re double dipping). All already have perfectly adequate venues and interest groups are welcome to fund improvements (if they actually even want any in the first place) rather than tapping school and county tax funds.

The taxes not increasing thing is bogus. RDAs are a synonym for “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in my book or as a state Legislative Audit report states:  “When RDAs take property taxes as allowed in tax increment financing (TIF), other taxing entities suffer. .” Yes, tax rates will not increase…yet. What happens is that the schools and Davis county just gave up $21 Million in revenue. In a few years they’ll need a building or have some other spending shortfall. Then we get tagged with urgent demands for a tax increase or extension of a prior tax increase (bonds) ‘to fund these critical needs for the children’ or for public safety – the same project(s) that would have otherwise been funded by the forgone RDA money. So, yeah, there is an indirect impact on our tax rates, be it an increase or, in the case of bond extensions, rates that were not reduced (and money not returned).

Finally, the pamphlet claims a net $17 Million benefit (with a 261% ROI). If that is true, the RDA is unnecessary and a developer should jump at that kind of a return. So, I guess we don’t need the RDA after all, hooray!

Addendum: The Better Bountiful group appears to be the main opposition. It has recently set up a website (NoNewCityHall.com) specifically dealing with this issue. One of their first and greatest challenges will be to overcome the involvement inertia so well describe by Rose and Milton Friedman.

 

Bountiful Preparing Another Attempt For A New City Hall

I found out that, in mid October (I understand it was on or around October 21, 2014), the Bountiful City Council participated in a site visit at Park City’s City Hall.  I would consider this fair warning that the mayor and council may be up to prepping another push to get a new city hall (and a few more projects like a museum).  Get ready for another push and prepared to vet their plans as they seem prone to costly legacy projects.

For background on their last (very expensive) attempt, see these posts.  Stay vigilant – as I noted in the linked posts, the Bountiful City Council is prone to sneak things through when the heat is off…

 

Act Now: Time Running Out To Opt-Out Of Fruit Heights Recycling Tax

I followed the Fruit Height recycling fiasco for while now. Click here for the prior posts on the city purposefully forcing out a private recycling company for their program. That brings us to the present and time is running out to opt-out (while they still allow such…remember, they can try to make the fee mandatory later as Bountiful City did).

There are three ways to opt-out of being forced to pay the recycling fee (tax). You only have until November 30th, however. Don’t put it off.

1. Call the city at 801-546-0861 and tell them you want to opt out

2. Email the City Manager bgreen@fruitheightscity.com

3. Fill out the opt-out form (which includes statements to shame you into not signing)

Be aware that opting-out is apparently time limited. If you don’t opt-out and decide you won’t use the program, it’s a bit like Hotel California – “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”

Remember, as many have done, you can still contract with a private curbside recycler (see prior posts for an example). Unlike the city, they don’t obligate you for life.

Bountiful Plays Games To Fund Pet Project Cost Overruns (Update)

In my previous update I warned that fiscal responsibility was temporary and the city would approve the pet projects as soon as the heat was down.  Here we go: The city council came out with the agenda for the upcoming Tuesday, October 8 meeting. It included the line:

“Discussion of City Hall and consideration of Fixed Limit Cost of Construction for new City Hall of $8.5 million and total building construction cost 0f $9,970,000”

The city then quickly (within minutes) reissued an amended agenda with the line changed to a vague:

“Discussion of City Hall options”

This is reminiscent of the city using a “discussion” item (with no public comment available) to quickly make the recycling fee mandatory for everyone after assuring it would be an opt-out program.  I anticipate the same move here, again without public comment.

I’ve been told that Tom Tolman was convinced by Mayor Joe Johnson to change his vote on the pet project.  My guess, is that he was able to get Tolman’s vote by promising that Tolman’s pet project, the museum, would be funded.

Plan on seeing the city dump about $10 million into the buildings to satisfy local politicians’ legacies and their pet project goals.  As far as the cost overrun goes, here’s the updated breakdown based on the different project start points (click here and click here for details on those):

  • $750,000 to $9.97 million = 1,329% increase
  • $1.5 mil to $9.97 million = 665% increase
  • $2.4 mil to $9.97 million = 415% increase

Maybe this time they’ll just talk about the project but given past action, I seriously doubt that.  Fool me once shame on me…

UPDATE: Some good news with a warning.  The council voted (4 to 1!) to continue to “study” the city hall/museum/art project.  That is a partial win but since the project is just under study, all it takes is another meeting with a “discussion” agenda item to fund the projects (also without any public input requirement).

So the projects are on hold…until they flip the switch…at any given time.  As I’ve stated over and over – Stay vigilant!