Baird dives into county budgeting process, cuts increase by $400K

Chris Baird

A proposed Grand County property tax increase that was initially advertised at about $2.1 million has been cut by nearly $400,000, according to Grand County Clerk-Auditor Chris Baird, who offered an in-depth explanation of the county’s 2020 budget at a public hearing Tuesday.

Baird, who is also the county’s budget officer, used a series of graphs to illustrate his points, but concluded that the “major reason” for the proposal is a nearly across-the-board $1.25 million salary increase that was approved a year ago – at a time when the county was losing employees at an alarming rate due to stagnant wages that were no longer competitive.

While it has been more than a decade since Grand County last raised property taxes, Baird pointed out that the county is just one of seven taxing entities. The Grand County School District, which receives more property taxes than any other entity, has raised its taxes, as have others. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it is “impossible” for any one family to live in all 10 taxing districts.

The Grand County Library also seeks a tax increase this year, as does the standalone Moab Mosquito Abatement Special Services District.

Using hypothetical numbers to explain how property taxes work, Baird used a $4 million budget that would be divided by the total taxable value of $1 billion with a tax rate of 0.004. The owner of a $250,000 home would owe $1,000 in property taxes.

The county’s total budget is roughly $13 million.

If that $1 billion taxable value increases, the rate would go down and the bill would remain the same. In other words, reappraising properties would not increase the taxes collected because the rate would be reduced. The only way to bring in additional property tax revenue is through new growth, he said.

Council Member Jaylyn Hawks asked, if that was the case, why property taxes have increased over the past decade. That’s when Baird explained how Grand County is far from the only taxing entity and that there are “slivers” of taxes. Also, properties are reappraised every five years, which could add to a property tax liability.

Baird and the budget committee trimmed $389,000 from the initial proposal and another $64,000 from the library, which means the owner of a median-priced $242,000 home would pay about $121 more next year than this year, while a business with the same value would pay about $221. Library taxes for the same homeowner would increase an additional $14.95, $27.19 for a business.

In addition to the salary increase, the property tax increase, if approved, would cover a 1.7 percent cost of living adjustment, fund a number of new positions, more than $380,400 in capital projects and $160,000 in new space needs.

Baird said there are various tax abatements the state offers, based on age and income.

Those who wish to comment on the proposed budget and property tax increase have until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11. Email comments to [email protected] or drop them off at the adminstration offices at the Grand County Courthouse.