Area residents suffer tax “sticker shock”

San Juan County residents suffering from “sticker shock” have expressed concern about property tax rates.

San Juan County officials heard about it during equalization hearings on August 17, and the Monticello City Council heard about it during Truth in Taxation hearings on August 11.

Monticello officials proposed a tax increase in the face of a budget crunch. However, after the August 11 Truth in Taxation hearing, the Monticello City Council instead adopted the certified tax rate rather than the tax increase.

Other taxing entities in San Juan County have adopted the certified tax rate, which keeps total property tax collections the same as the previous year.

Despite adopting the certified rate, locally-assessed properties in San Juan County, such as homes and small businesses, face a large defacto tax increase because of a shift in the tax burden.

The value of centrally assessed properties, such as oil, gas, mining, and utility properties, continue to fall, from $490 million to $430 million between 2008 and 2009. At the same time, the value of homes and small businesses increased from $300 million to $330 million over the same period. The shift in value shifts the tax burden away from large businesses to homeowners.

Homeowners in Monticello and Blanding face an additional burden as the result of a reassessment of properties in both communities. Officials from the Utah State Tax Commission notified local authorities that property values were undervalued in both communities. Local officials were told that unless property values were increased by 25 percent in Blanding and by 28 percent in Monticello, San Juan County would be fined and all property values would be increased, by the state, by 40 percent.

Dorothy Leavitt, of Monticello, was representative of the sentiments of many county residents at the equalization hearings. Leavitt said her property tax is up 112 percent over the past six years and added, “There has got to be a limit. People don’t have bottomless pockets.”

The Monticello Council abandoned their proposal to raise rates after more than 30 city residents crowded the August 11 meeting. Instead, the city took several steps, including raising secondary water fees by 50 percent.

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