KAYSVILLE — Salary increases, police needs and whether or not Proposition 5 was behind the city’s financial woes were the major points brought up by Kaysville residents at a public hearing June 17.
Mayor Steve Hiatt started the hearing by assuring the standing-room only crowd that there was no plan to increase staff salaries by 20 to 30 percent, as had been claimed in an email.
“This is simply not true,” he told the audience. Cost of living and merit increases for any one employee, if granted, would not exceed 5.69 percent, he said.
The higher percentages were recommended in a study the city commissioned to review competitiveness of city salaries, but not part of the proposed budget.
“Anything more than zero may upset you,” he said to those gathered, “and the purpose of this hearing is so we can hear it.”
Several speakers took exception to any increase in salary at all, sharing their own budget-tightening efforts since the economic downturn.
Others said if salaries go up, it should be for employees in the field, and not administrators.
Hiatt attempted to put the proposed tax increase in perspective, admitting that while 102 percent sounds like a lot, in his case, it adds only $16.32 a month to his property bill.
In answer to a question, Dean Storey, finance manager for the city, said the only other tax increase implemented over the past 25 years was for half of one percent.
Gary Cole, a city resident, said that he, like many in Kaysville, is on a fixed budget but virtually everything in that budget has gone up over the years.
“We want to ask you to stay within your budget and keep in mind that we had to,” he said. “Keep in mind the needs of the people you represent.”
In comments that followed the hearing, Council member Mark Johnson pointed out that the city’s costs have been going up each year too.
He defended another controversial city decision, the construction of a new police station, for the same reason.
Costs for materials on the station are expected to go up 2.5 to 3 percent and the cost of labor is also expected to rise 3 percent this year, said Johnson during the city council meeting that followed the hearing.
Lynn Galbraith, a former council member, said the city did an “end run” to authorize the station. Paula Fisher said the station was authorized in a way that was “not fair and not open.” Allan Glanville called the process “deceitful.” Maynard Morris called it “underhanded.”
“Maybe that was the right thing to do, but you lost credibility,” said Morris.
The decision to go out for a bond immediately rather than wait for another election cycle was “the best and most economical” thing to do, said Johnson, and will save the city $200,000 to $300,000.
Johnson’s response, as with many answers, came during the city council meeting, after most residents had left city hall.
One resident asked how much police make by writing tickets.
The answer that came later that evening from Chief Sol Oberg, was that most money goes to the justice courts and Kaysville doesn’t have its own. Officers don’t get bonuses for giving more tickets, he said.
In response to a challenge about the city needing more police protection, Oberg said more officers are needed to ensure there are at least two on duty at all times.
“You cannot safely handle domestics” (fights between family members), with one officer, he said. “They generally take a lot of time, a lot of resources and we have a lot of them.”
In response to a question on the lease revenue bonds the city issued instead of the general obligation bonds that would have been authorized in an election, Storey said the rates are very comparable. In addition, there is complete flexibility with lease revenue bonds, with no limit on prepayment, he said.
In responding to another concern brought up in the hearing, Hiatt pointed out that it takes a larger increase in property taxes to make up for a decrease in electric rates.
A 5 percent increase in property taxes raises only $50,000 for the city, said Hiatt.
Because tax exempt entities such as schools and churches pay for electricity, when Prop 5 prohibited interfund transfers, the city could only offer a 2.21 decrease in electricity rates, he said.
A truth-in-taxation hearing on the proposed increase will take place Tuesday, August 12 at 6 p.m.