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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Please tell me it isn't so

Blogmeister UPDATE 8-17-08 @ 11 am: We have added a link to the pdf tax file mentioned by Doc Wheatley. Also, don't miss the conversation on the topic over at the Weber County Forum.

A guest post from Kim Wheatley

Before you toss this as just one more rant from Dr. Wheatley, you ought to read it. I realize Powderville will likely come into existence and I realize the majority of the town council put forward by the commissioners will likely support the town turning into a high-density resort. We have mostly accepted that a corrupt legislative process is what it is and did what it did. So, we are moving to the next phase…how to get the town up and running.

In preparation to support the people of Powderville, who are about to have a town they are not at all ready for, I began wondering what kind of tax revenue they will have to work with. The county has a wonderful on-line tool where you can get the tax history and detail on every parcel in the county, so I began to add up the taxes paid on the properties in the town, starting with property owned by Eden Heights LLC (1520 acres) and Eden Heights II LLC (97 acres). This is the property that surrounds the existing homes in Powderville, on both sides of the highway, and was added to the Development Agreement proposed to the county commissioners, bumping the number of dwelling units up by 1100 (from current zoning of around 50). The county assessor says the property has a fair market value of $18,640,390 or $11,530 per acre, which passes the smell test if you consider how steep a lot of it is. They also say 2007 taxes totaled $255.18, WHICH DOESN’T. Yes, that’s two hundred and fifty five dollars; with taxes on every parcel ranging between 15 and 17 cents per acre….wow, the taxes on the property my home sits on is 2400 times higher!

Next I tallied up the tax contributions of Western America Holding LLC, the people I generally refer to as the PERPS. County tax records show they own 6188 acres with a fair market value of $9,012,201 or $1456 per acre (fails the smell test). Their 2007 taxes added up to $7,565.67, which stinks to high heaven; total property taxes paid on two 80 acre parcel are $4.46 and $4.55. Of the total, only a quarter of an acre is taxed above $12 per acre (paying $334 per acre), and only 40 acres is taxed above 23 cents per acre. Unless there is another mechanism for collecting taxes on buildings and facilities that I’m not aware of, these taxes also include the lifts and lodges and other improvements at the resort.

Based on my own tax notice, only 18% goes to the county general fund and I assume this is the piece of the pie the town gets to run their government and provide services to their citizens. Bad news for the town as they ramp up…they can only expect tax income of about $45 from the Eden Heights bunch and another $1362 from Western America.

Just to put this into perspective, I added up the property taxes paid by one three-generation family in the town who have three homes (the homes of grandparents, parents, child). You guessed it. In 2007 they paid $12,556…1.6 times the property taxes the combined resort owners paid on a major ski resort and 7200 acres of land. A reasonable estimate is the people in the town will be paying at least 95% of the taxes to support it.

How in the world we ended up in a taxing situation like this is beyond me. I’ve tried, but I just can’t see how one can reconcile all the inconsistencies in this mess. The “fair market” valuations don’t make sense and the “taxable value” makes even less sense. HB466 (the law that allowed the town to be forced on the people without a feasibility study, hearings or vote) was based on fair market valuation, but fair market valuation apparently has little to do with taxes actually paid and revenues the town can expect to operate with. And now, in addition to a town that at least 55% of the people don’t want (15% are in favor and rest don’t care or are undecided) they are about to get stuck with a town council hand picked by PERPS that don’t pay enough taxes to even be on the radar screen.

I guess the good new in all this is now we can add a blatantly unfair taxing system to a blatantly unfair town-making system as this mess makes its way into the press and the courts. Our elected representatives have succeeded in allowing a bunch of greedy, ruthless perpetrators, who don’t even pay a fraction of their fair share of taxes, to take away people’s right to vote for an elected government…and all of this in a place that used to be called Eden.


Kimbal Wheatley, Ogden Valley

PS. If you have a hard time believing all this, you can study the PDF attachment where all the tax information described above is summarized or, better yet, go to the county website and verify my numbers.


stop legislative corruption said...

"We have mostly accepted that a corrupt legislative process is what it is and did what it did. So, we are moving to the next phase…how to get the town up and running."

I surely hope no one in Ogden Valley or for that matter across the State accepts a corrupt legislative process is what it is...

And I surely hope people have the gumption and good sense to simply vote against all incumbents. And that includes Christiansen and Froerer for certain. They have to be held accountable at the polls for being complicent in a corrupt legislative process at a minimum.

Flat Top said...

This Powder Mountain issue has exposed a corrupt, lazy Weber County and State Government from the top down. They circle the wagons and become defensive when their decisions are questioned or challenged. They operate on the premise that they never make a mistake and since we elected them, we have to live with their errors. Take HB466 from our state legislature for a classic example of "flawless" leadership from elected officials.

We need to change the Weber County Commission makeup until we get people in office that care about the public trust and doing what right for our citizens and not the developers.

It is hard to imagine a political system that prides itself in the rights of all, would have the Lt. Governor and the Weber County Commission in essence support a bad law at the expense of the rights of their own citizens of this State. Any of them could stand up and say no. Let Powder Mountain sue the County or State. But of course, you would be talking about leaders that really care about their citizens! Not to be found in Weber County or at the highest levels in Utah.