The Emery County Commission held a Public Hearing Aug. 13, for comments from the public concerning the proposed property tax increase by Emery County and the Special Services District. The monies collected by this one time judgment levy will be used to payback PacifiCorp for a tax protest.
The County Commissioners explained why the judgment levy would require a property tax increase on the residents of Emery County.
This judgment levy is a result of PacifiCorp protesting property taxes imposed upon them by the Utah State Tax Commission's assessment of PacifiCorp's property in the 2006 and 2007 tax year. PacifiCorp paid the property taxes assessed to Emery County and the Castle Valley Special Service District while fighting those assessed property taxes in court. PacifiCorp recently won the court case.
Now Emery County, the Emery County School District, Emery Water Conservancy District and the Castle Valley Special Service District are ordered to payback to PacifiCorp the tax monies they received for the tax year 2006 and 2007 which are deemed to be an overpayment of taxes by PacifiCorp.
The following county entities received monies from taxes levied against PacifiCorp for the year 2006 and 2007:
The Emery County General Fund received for 2006-07 $296,012.33, Emery County School District received $370,564.88, Emery Water Conservancy District received $26,246.51, Castle Valley Special Service District received $121,802.56. The interest to be paid on this money from PacifiCorp is 64,327.56. These county entities are required by the court to repay PacifiCorp. This information is taken from the information sheet handed out at the meeting. These amounts which must be repaid are what the court has determined that PacifiCorp overpaid in taxes for those years 2006-07.
Clerk/Auditor Brenda Tuttle said a judgment levy is the recouping of property taxes that have been appealed by Centrally Assessed property tax owners and we then have to pay it back to the property owner that won the litigation. This particular appeal goes back to 2006 and 2007. The total amount of the appeal countywide for all four taxing entities is $879,080. The Emery County portion is $319,310. Because the tax year closes in December of each year the 2006 and 2007 years are already ended and the money has already been spent. Therefore in order to pay this back to PacifiCorp then this is the avenue we have to get the money in order to pay the appeal. That is basically what a judgment levy is.
Commissioner Nelson pointed out that PacifiCorp would pay about 67 percent of this judgment levy to themselves, because that is their tax.
Tuttle said the Centrally Assessed properties amount to 84 percent overall. If the homeowners had to pay the entire amount this would be a huge increase, but where it is countywide with PacifiCorp paying back the biggest portion of the judgment levy in the end PacifiCorp did not win by much. Tuttle also pointed out that this is a one-year levy only. The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the Emery County portion or $319,000 and Castle Valley Special Service District's portion or $131,442.
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks asked for comments from the audience.
The first comment came from Richard Nielson a resident of Ferron, and a disappointed taxpayer in Emery County. He said I think it was ill advised for the county to go after taxes that have already been approved by the State of Utah. To use taxpayer money to fight another entity using taxpayer money to recover money from one of the largest employers in Emery County as well as one of the largest taxpayers in Emery County. I do not think that promotes economic growth. I do not think my opinion amounts to much but we need to promote economic growth here and not take the Obama approach and raise taxes anytime we get the chance. My suggestion would be and my request would be, if I have done the math correctly I could not see anything that would support the tax increase. Richard said as near as I can tell $319,000 against an annual budget of about $14 million amounts to about 2 to 3 percent.
I do not see that any efforts have been made to cut expenses. We raise taxes just like the President. But we are not cutting expenses. The county does nothing to hold people accountable, I refer to the Recreation Department. I am in favor of personal responsibility and accountability. No one is held accountable and you want to take more money from the taxpayer. Tighten your belts before you come to me and ask for more money.
Commissioner Horrocks responded by saying for your information people are held accountable. We have done a lot to reduce the cost of the county government. We continually ask our department heads to cut back on their budget requests. The only thing we can do further is to cut services.
Richard Nielson said I think we can do better. I think we can cut expenses and ask each district and department to cut a percent. I think we can, but only if we try. If we fail to try were going to fail.
Commissioner Horrocks explained this judgment levy does not increase the amount of funds coming into the county. These are taxes we received that we have to payback to the power company. What you are seeing is a tax shift from the Centrally Assessed property entities in the county to the homeowner in the county. This does not bring any more money into the county. It is a shift because of a court decision as to who is paying the money.
Richard Nielson responded by saying rather than take more money from the property owners can we go to the department heads and have them cut budgets. I believe we can from what I have seen of the county. If you disagree then vote for the tax increase. Let's not take the Obama approach, we should take the Mitt Romney approach and hold people accountable for what they do. We don't just raise taxes every chance we get. Let's cut the budget. That is my approach.
Blake Behling had a question about centrally assessed property and why is PacifiCorp assessed the way they are and then they get to beat the assessment?
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks explained the State Tax Commission assesses Centrally Assessed properties in the State of Utah. The county property owners are assessed by our County Tax Assessor. The Tax Commission tells the county what the taxes are going to be for those properties. When those Centrally Assessed businesses appeal through the State Tax Commission, we try to fight the appeal and when we lose then we have to repay whatever the Tax Commission overcharged. We can do that by raising the taxes to the full amount of what the assessment is or by doing a judgment levy. This requires the entity that made the appeal and won the payback, in this case, about 70 percent of that fund back to the county. They do not get the full 100 percent.
In other words when the judgment levy is assessed with the property taxes for homeowners in November they will pay this one time judgment levy. PacifiCorp will also have to pay their share of the judgment levy as they are a taxed business within the county. All Emery County taxpayers will pay their share of the judgment levy so PacifiCorp can be paid back the amount the court awarded them in overpayment of taxes.
The Emery County Commission after the public hearing approved the judgment levy and imposed a one time property tax increase on the Emery County residents so that Emery County and the Castle Valley Special Service District will be able to repay the taxes from PacifiCorp.