County considers large property tax increase

A tax increase may be coming to property owners in San Juan County.  The county introduced the possibility at a Commission meeting in Blanding on October 1.

The tax increase may be coming from three separate county taxing entities, with a comparatively small increase from the county library and public health entities, and a larger increase for the general fund.

County Clerk John David Nielson presented the cost to taxpayers of the potential property tax increase.

The potential tax increases under consideration range from a nine percent increase to raise an additional $250,000, to a 35 percent increase to raise an additional $1 million.

The cost scenarios are based on how much additional money the county may need to raise.

Four possible increases are listed, including if the county needs to raise an additional $250,000, $500,000, $750,000, or $1 million.

If the county wanted to raise an additional $500,000, the impact for a property owner with a home valued at $200,000 would be $69.08, or an additional 17 percent.

Under that scenario (additional $500,000), the property tax bill for a business valued at $500,000 would increase by $314.

County Clerk John David Nielson said some funds are operating in the red, and the county is subsidizing these funds.

He added that the cost of paying for litigation needs to be taken into consideration.

For the voting rights lawsuit alone, the county is to pay the Navajo Nation $1.3 million in January 2020 and $200,000 a year for several years after that.

New County Administrator Mack McDonald, attending his first Commission meeting, said, “The audit clearly indicates several areas where – year after year – we run a deficit. A tax increase will shore up these accounts.”

Commissioner Bruce Adams moved to table the discussion to the October 15 meeting, stating that he would like to break out the proposal into three separate categories, for the library, the public health, and the general fund accounts.

The commission meeting was in the Blanding Arts and Events Center on the campus of Utah State University.

Blanding Mayor Joe B. Lyman welcomed the county and discussed the community.

Lyman said his great grandfather, Walter C. Lyman, forsaw the development of water in Blanding and envisioned a center for education, particularly for Native Americans.

Lyman said both visions are in process, the result of “a lot of people working cooperatively together to make things better.”

Lyman said, “The USU campus in Blanding is a miracle to exist in a community of this size. This campus is 65 percent Native American, which is an astounding thing, unprecedented anywhere in the United States.”

Lyman added that Blanding is becoming a center for health care, and USU is an important part of its success.

Once again, he added that the clinic and hospital are the result of people pulling together.

The meeting included emergency management training for elected officials, including elected officials from Monticello, Blanding, and San Juan County.

David Ure, Executive Director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), presented information regarding SITLA.

The current SITLA structure was created in 1994 with $50 million.  This year, the balance is $2.5 billion.  Interest from the principal generates funds for schools. The total amount sent to local schools is $88.5 million, a 7.5 percent increase.

After the presentation, several members of the Spanish Valley community met with Ure and local SITLA manager Bryan Torgerson in the hallway.

Later, the Spanish Valley residents expressed a variety of issues during the public portion of the meeting. 

Kim Henderson invited Commissioners to attend a townhall meeting at the Arts and Events Center in Blanding on October 9.

Henderson said all citizens of the county are invited to attend.

“We want a diverse audience and to have a discussion,” said Henderson, adding it is a great opportunity for Commissioners to gauge public opinion.

Amer Tumeh, a business owner in Bluff, encouraged the Commission to dissolve the county’s interlocal agreement with Bluff.

Tumeh expressed frustration with the Bluff zoning process, stating that a commercial property had been rezoned as residential.

“The zoning process is arbitrary and discriminatory, with a sham process for appeals,” said Tumeh, who said he is afraid that funds generated from the resort tax, transient room tax, and sales tax will go to pay for lawsuits rather than to provide services.

“I would hate for San Juan County to be aiding Bluff and end up in the middle of lawsuits,” said Tumeh.

Courtney Fennell was approved as a Senior Center Aide, and Colton Lee as a Light Equipment Operator in the road department.

Appointed to the Mexican Hat Service District board are Julie Sword as chair, Joy Howell as secretary, and Travis Sumner as treasurer.  The Commission has served as the district board, and seemed relieved that community members offered to serve.

Commissioners approved a $2,660 bid from Rick’s Glass to replace several windows in the Public Safety Building in Monticello.  

Maintenance Director Monty Perkins said the funds are in his budget.

San Juan Record

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