DAVE & DUJANOVIC

SLC voters OK $85 million parks and trails bond. Is it worth higher taxes?

Nov 15, 2022, 7:00 AM
A member of the Utah Taxpayers Association weighs in on how Salt Lake County will spend an 85 milli...
FILE: Ducks at Liberty Park on Wednesday, May 11, 2011. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Last week, Salt Lake City voters overwhelmingly approved an $85 million bond for parks and trails, with 69% in favor and 31% against. But are the accumulating taxes from passing bonds on Election Day worth it?

Rusty Cannon of the Utah Tax Payers Association joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss whether Utahns enjoy a big enough bang for their $85 million.

  

Salt Lake County has one of the highest median property taxes in the United States. It is ranked 704th of the 3,143 counties in order of median property taxes, according to Tax-Rates.org.

“Whether it’s for general education or parks, we just vote yes,” Dave said.

With a few exceptions, at least this year — when voters in Utah County rejected Alpine School District’s $595 million bond. It would have built new schools, upgraded old schools, and outfitted other schools with safety and security measures.

Voters also shot down the proposition of Orem City splitting from the Alpine School District and creating its own district.

Yet in Davis County,  56% of voters approved a bond that would grant the Davis School District $475 million for improvements to outdated buildings and for two new schools in the northwestern part of the county.

Parks, trails and taxes

By approving the $85 million bond, Salt Lake City property owners will begin to see a tax increase in 2024. This increase is about $54 for a median-priced home valued at $576,000, city officials project. The increased property tax will remain in place until the bond is paid off, which is expected to be in the next 20 years, according to Deseret News.

“Is every voter in Salt Lake City, is every household going to get $54 worth of use out of these areas?” Dave asked.

“Do we ever really get our money’s worth as taxpayers out of investments and things like parks and trails?” Debbie asked.

“There’s really no way to answer that because it’s just sort of a touchy-feely subject. Who doesn’t want more parks, more trails? We all do, right?” Cannon of the Utah Tax Payers Association said.

He pointed out that city residents just added more to their overall tax load, in a county with already high property-tax rates.

“From our analysis, Salt Lake City has the highest — I mean by far the highest burden on citizens for taxes and fees in any city. The average in the state is about $740 a year. Salt Lake City clocks in at over $1,700,” Cannon said.

Taxes going up and up

Dave pointed out all the approved bonds add up for taxpayers over time. 

“[The bond proponents] give you this number; it’s only gonna cost you $5 a month. Well, everyone thinks it’s worth $5 a month to me, but when every election adds $5 here, $10 or $20 [and] the next thing you know, it has just ballooned, and we really don’t have a good way as voters to keep track of this running tab,” he said.

“Correct. We don’t,” Cannon said, adding parks and trails are typically the easiest types of debt to pass on to voters.

What the parks and trails bond will fund

The Salt Lake City parks and trails bond also will fund:

  • $16 million toward contingency funding for any outdoor project in the city.
  • $10.5 million toward neighborhood parks, trails, or open spaces. All seven council districts will have at least one project funded with the money.
  • $9 million for improvements to the Jordan River corridor.
  • $6 million toward a new park at the Fleet Block property in Salt Lake City’s Granary District.
  • $5 million toward the completion of the Folsom Trail, connecting it with the Jordan River Parkway.
  • $5 million for improvements to Fairmont Park.
  • $4.5 million for improvements at Allen Park. The city, which acquired the park in 2020, is set to begin work on a management plan next year that will dictate future uses of the park space, according to the city.
  • $2 million for improvements to the playground at Liberty Park.

Did you know?

Summit County collects the highest property tax in Utah, levying an average of $1,921 (0.39% of median home value) yearly in property taxes, while Rich County has the lowest property tax in the state, collecting an average tax of $422 (0.35% of median home value) per year.

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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SLC voters OK $85 million parks and trails bond. Is it worth higher taxes?