Enoch residents petition to put proposed tax increase on general election ballot

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ENOCH, Utah – Opponents of  a property tax increase that would more than double the current rate in Enoch ceremoniously presented a petition to challenge it.

The group brought the petition to the city council meeting Wednesday night to show the city council they are serious.

The group “Save Enoch” said they’ve gathered more than 900 signatures, more than enough seek a referendum, essentially putting the tax increase to public vote.

The city council passed the 2014 budget with the 113 percent property tax increase in August. It’s an issue that has divided the small city, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

“Right now we almost have to agree to disagree,”  tax supporter Ginger Alldredge said. “So many of us are very close, and we know each other.”

Supporters of the tax said it’s not so much about supporting taxes, but supporting the city council’s decision.

“I wish they would have done it incrementally over time,” tax supporter Josh Killian said. “At the same time, I recognize that we need the infrastructure that we have, and we need to keep it, or we’re not going to have what we’ve already got.”

The city has never in its history raised property tax, and for the past several years it drew on savings to offset costs. Mayor Robert Rasmussen told FOX 13 last week it was a difficult decision to make, but one they felt was necessary to keep services the way they are. Immediately, residents spoke out against it.

“What people see is, they don’t see cuts,” said Save Enoch Spokesperson Adan Hahn. “They see tax increases. And that is really what had driven this petition forward. If the city had shown us those cuts that they had made, and then shown us there was no other option, this petition never would have happened.”

For the majority of residents, an annual increase means between $10 and $15 per month. Supporters realize that can be a stretch for some families, but they said they believe the tax is necessary to preserve the future of the city.

“If the petition goes through, there’s going to be a hold put on a whole bunch of services that we have and that we enjoy,” tax supporter Lethe Kelsey said. “It could be devastating for our city depending on what they decide to cut.”

Supporters also believe the word “tax” is what’s giving residents a sour feeling. Opponents have mentioned making the increase a fee to avoid calling it a tax, but supporters like Alldredge said that would limit the ability to write-off the increase on federal tax returns.

Unfortunately, the city council didn't accept the petition Wednesday night, the city attorney pointed out it would be unwise for council members to accept the document, as law states it needs to be turned in to the city clerk.

Organizers said they will take it to the city clerk on Thursday. The city clerk will verify the signatures to make sure the group has the required 440. If they do, the tax increase will appear on the general election ballot in 2015. The vote could come earlier if the city decides to hold a special election.