San Juan County taxpayers may find some relief in their tax bill according to preliminary discussions of San Juan County Commissioners regarding the recently released state certified tax rate.
County Clerk Norman Johnson presented the certified tax rate to the San Juan County Commission at their June 11 meeting.
Johnson said that with increased valuation and new growth in the county, the certified tax rate has dropped by two percent from the previous year. If it is accepted by the commission, it will bring approximately $275,000 in additional revenue to the county due to new growth.
Commissioner Phil Lyman said that historically the county has taken the state certified rate and observed that, “If we go with the state’s accessing recommendations and then go with the state certified rate... basically we are letting the state set our taxes.”
The commission discussed the increase in centrally-assessed property having the most impact on the increase in the value of the county. There has also been a significant revalue of business property in the county this year.
Commissioner Lyman expressed concern, “The general economy doesn’t really reflect the value increases that we are seeing.”
Lyman continued, “I love to see the centrally assessed properties go up. It gives us a nice ability to say we don’t have to raise taxes to keep paying our bills, and we can lower the rate. It’s an action on the part of the commission that shows good will.”
“My goal would be to try and hold at least revenue neutral to what we collected last year,” said Commissioner Bruce Adams. Lyman agreed, stating, “When values are going up, I would love to see us hold revenue neutral. It gives us a chance to reduce the rate below what the certified rate is.”
Johnson said most homeowners would likely see quite a decrease in their tax bill if the commissioners choose a revenue neutral stance.
If the commission decides to take a hard revenue neutral stance and lower the certified tax rate, it could mean a 12-18 percent decrease in county property tax to many property owners.
Adams asked that Johnson bring several options to the commission between a revenue neutral stance and the certified tax rate. He also asked for projections regarding increased health care and liability insurance costs so the commission can consider lowering the rate while allowing for increased costs and possible employee increases.
Commissioner Lyman discussed the county benefits package and pointed out that while the county insurance costs are roughly $1,100 per employee, the school district cost is closer to $1,700 with a lesser quality package than that which the county offers. Johnson pointed out that by being self-insured, the county has been able to keep costs lower for the benefits package.
The commission expressed having a goal to bring San Juan County back close to the middle of the statewide rankings for property taxes over the next few years. “I think it’s a worthy goal for San Juan County to try to pull ourselves back,” said Lyman.
Johnson said that the rate needs to be set in the next few weeks if possible so they can begin the process of sending out valuation notices. The commission will discuss the issue further at their next meeting.
Commissioner Adams presented an amendment to the San Juan County OHV ordinance to allow any person 12 years of age or older, with a registered ATV and a wearing a helmet, to ride on any B or D road in San Juan County.
“We think it’s appropriate in this county to have people be able to use their OHV on county roads,” said Adams. A public hearing on the amendment will be held at Commission meeting in two weeks before a decision is made.
The Commission approved a resolution for a Declaration of Emergency for drought and fire in San Juan County. The declaration is effective immediately
In other business, the commission approved a contract with the Utah State Department of Agriculture for the Coyote bounty program. This is the last time the program will be offered through the county for bounty payments.
A new program will be run by the state and is thought to be increasing the bounty from $20 to $50 but also increasing the requirements that must be met for payment including GPS coordinates of where the animals was taken and a required class before a person can be certified to hunt coyotes and collect the bounty.
The commission also approved the Aging Waiver Contract with the State of Utah. Aging Director Tammy Gallegos told the commission that no county money is put into the program, which provides $450,000 for client care and $85,000 for administration.
The Aging Waiver provides funding for in home care for up to 100 frail and elderly clients to be placed in their homes instead of nursing homes and provides nursing, housekeeping and companion care.
Gallegos reported that there are 85 people in San Juan County in the program at this time, with the majority of clients coming from reservation areas.