KAYSVILLE -- Mayor Steve Hiatt pleaded with the audience at Tuesday's council meeting to dig into the details of the proposed city budget.
He asked them to go out and meet with people who work for the city, to learn more about the workers who go out to repair a burst pipe after a 12-hour shift plowing snow, and to review all the documents posted on the city's website in their effort to be transparent.
"We try to get as much information out to the public as we can," he said. "The vast majority aren't interested in being engaged in their community until it affects them or they read a headline."
Those headlines drew a crowd to Tuesday's meeting, some in protest and some in support of the city's proposed 102 percent tax increase.
After listening to almost two hours of comments on both sides of the issue, city council members defended their positions and explained the city's needs.
"Every single person around this table, we all want what's best for this city," said Jared Taylor, a council member. "We've been pleading for people to come over and learn more. We'll do anything we can to make this as open as possible."
A number of those who spoke had accused the council of being underhanded in the way they authorized the police station, of misleading the public, of overlooking the will of the people or of lacking integrity.
Some questioned the timing of the police station and that construction began before hearings on the budget took place. Several brought up the failed bond measure for a station in 2010. One called electric utility revenue a "slush fund" that the city drew on for other needs.
"There's nobody hiding anything," said Brett Garlick, also a council member. He noted that when the police station was last discussed in a council meeting, a "huge majority" of those in attendance spoke in favor of it.
"We're listening to everybody," he said, but because there has only been one tax increase of 5 percent in 25 years, while cumulative retail rates have gone up 90 percent, he said, residents shouldn't expect services to remain the way they are without an increase. "Is it your street you don't want plowed? Is it your police call you don't want answered?"
The tentative budget was approved at the end of the comments Tuesday, and will now be available for review and discussion for 30 days. A public hearing is set for June 17 and a date for a Truth-in-Taxation hearing will be finalized after getting county approval on the date.
Council member Susan Lee was the lone vote against the tentative budget. She had proposed asking departments to cut their budgets 10 percent.
"My biggest concern are those that are on fixed incomes, or single family homes," she said. "This is a serious hit to their budget and if we're willing to ask them to feel that kind of pain, we should be able to do the same thing."
Several council members pointed out that firefighters and police officers were leaving the city for neighboring cities, whose wages were higher.
"We have to pay them competitive wages to have a fire department," said Mark Johnson, a council member.
Garlick said the city's police department had been considered a training ground in the past, and that officers, once trained, would leave for higher paying jobs.
"Now we're competitive," he said. "We've got a police force who want to be here."
Hiatt admitted that the large tax increase proposed by the city council is probably "political suicide," but added that the council was elected to make difficult decisions on behalf of city residents.
"We've heard a lot of good feedback," he said. "That's what the process was designed to do."