The proposed budget for 2015 and two years thereafter will include a property tax increase. In 2015, the increase will amount to $106.40 per $100,000 in assessed property value. That increase will be for two years and the third year will include an increase of $86.29 per $100,000 assessed value. These numbers are based on current assessed values, which are expected to hold relatively steady in the third year despite the reduction in raw land value due to new home construction.
Mayor Dave Erley read a prepared letter that outlined the need for the large property tax increase to pay for some ongoing expenses such as “setting aside funds for the repaving of Castle Valley Drive and some one-time expenses such as reconstruction of the Castle Valley Drive crossing of Castle Creek,” according to the statement.
“First of all,” he said during the meeting, “our equipment is failing. The front-loader is played out from too many years of service. The grader is not far behind. We had nearly $20,000 in over-budget maintenance. Most of the repairs require a mechanic from Salt Lake City or Grand Junction who travel on our dime. Only Wheeler Equipment, Caterpillar, has a local mechanic stationed in Moab, actually two for the Lisbon Valley Copper Mine. In researching the town’s realistic options, I contacted a number of county road departments in southern Utah, and a few towns. Over and over, I was told if you use a piece of equipment less than 500 hours per year, which we do, lease it. It is a no-brainer as you never own it and the maintenance is Wheeler’s responsibility. Thus, the costs are fixed and a budget is a realistic prediction of the year’s expenses.
“A backhoe-loader, to replace the front-loader with more versatility, is $14,500 per year. A road grader is $24,500 per year. This is $39,000 per year for our two most important pieces of equipment. It also means we will have good equipment that is operational instead of constantly needing repair. This is an ongoing increase to the road department’s budget but overall the only sustainable way for a town our size to maintain functional equipment. What really clued me in to the situation was when the Grand County road supervisor was quoted in the paper as saying it would take $80,000 per year to maintain the county’s new paved bike path system. Concrete trucks and semis [occasionally are] on our roads, which is a load the bike paths do not have to deal with. Our road department budget was around $51,000 this year before the maintenance overruns.”
Mayor Erley cited other ongoing expenses for the inevitable repaving of Castle Valley Drive by putting $5,000 a year aside, and an ongoing cost of $2,200 per year to sample the town’s water quality monitoring wells. They have tried to do the monitoring once a year but have budgeted money for it sporadically. The Utah Geological Survey has matched the expenditure but recommends that it be done in the spring and fall to better monitor the aquifer.
Even though the agenda item was simply a resolution to adopt the tentative budget, the council fielded questions and heard statements from the audience as though it were a public hearing. John Lucas said he reluctantly has to go along with the budget proposal, as he doesn’t see where the town has a choice to get out of the situation. But his concern is that “these things have a way of being permanent and don’t go away,” and he fears that they are taking the proposed Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund grant for a bridge over Castle Creek for granted.
Despite the fact that he supports the tax increase, Darr Hatch questioned what guarantee citizens have that the extra money will be utilized for what the tax increase is intended to be used for. He also questioned the cost of the maintenance. “They’re not telling us everything about the lease agreement,” he said.
Everyone else at the meeting also seemed to support the tax increase as it was explained. Council member Tory Hill moved to accept the proposed budget and the council selected Aug. 12 for a public hearing where residents can voice their opinion on the tax increase proposal.
It was also announced during the meeting that Castle Valley Road Manager Greg Halliday submitted his resignation as of May 31. He was commended for his diligent work during the past five years. The position will be posted and anyone interested is encouraged to contact the town.