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Paula Smith on Property Tax
I've been writing about our property tax system for years, and seeing how little has changed is frustrating. It's clear to me that this issue needs to be addressed, which is why I decided to run for office. The tax situation is the very reason I'm running. It's my "why." While property tax "Structure" requires a change to the Utah Constitution and beyond the direct control of the City Council, the Council DOES have local property tax decisions.
Here are some ideas for the structure change, though I believe a collaborative effort will create Property Tax solutions:
• Tax rate is based on the purchase price or current market value (factored base).
Retroactive due to inflated post covid pricing anomaly.
• Valuation increases MUST have a cap. **Most of the annual increase comes from the assessor valuations, which can increase uncapped, forcing owners to be taxed on unrealized gains. This becomes more prevalent in communities with more home sales. Homeowners who do not sell are being charged higher property taxes resulting from the neighbors who profit from selling their homes. That sale price is used against the neighbors that stayed, and valuations are factored from the neighbor's sold price. Essentially, the neighbor that sells makes a profit, and the ones that stay pay the penalty via higher taxes.
• 1-3% per year maximum valuation increase during rising values
• During dramatic real estate decline, valuations that are lower than the purchase price (factored base) will reduce. Values will be assessor-reviewed each year with the ability to increase unrestricted (during rising values) UP TO the original factored base year. Once values return or exceed the original factored base (purchase price), the cap on increases returns.
• Reassessment when the property is sold, issuing a new factored base to the buyer. The new owner resets at the new sale price (which is the new owner's purchase price). This is not an added tax to either party; this is only adjusting the factored base to the purchase price upon the property change of hands.
• Retain primary exemption for primary and long-term rental.
• Voters determine any added property taxes.
You may recall here in St George that an 'added' property tax was proposed under the guise of 'increased pay for our Public Safety.' I was in that fight to STOP the added tax, and our efforts were successful. Voting against that added tax should not be confused with voting against additional funds for public safety (no one in that fight disagreed that Public Safety deserved a pay increase). Voting against that extra tax was a request to the City to DO IT BETTER. For the record, Public Safety pay WAS INCREASED, which was my personal goal. There was enough money already in the budget, and Public Safety needs to be a priority, not an afterthought. City Council has walked back their previous comments about increasing property tax next year, and they are already developing their pitch to residents on how we must decide what services we want to cut. The real question is, why aren't they taking responsibility for their overspending?
While fighting against this added tax, I spent considerable time reviewing our city budget. My findings raised more questions about how our money is being spent and the pressing need for transparency within our City. I am committed to implementing changes that will address areas that lack transparency. I aim to work towards solutions for Utah's property tax while being a voice for Washington County in St George. I am dedicated to producing a more fiscally responsible budget to limit unnecessary property tax increases and restore the proper role of government within our City.
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