City council candidates Kyle Barratt, Staci Carroll, Barbara Christiansen, and Jeffrey Shorter will be on the November general election ballot in American Fork. Each voter may choose two, and the two who receive the most votes will win the available seats.
Here candidates answer questions about taxes, water rates, impact fees, and roads. (Last time, they answered questions about experience and qualifications, goals, and motivations for running.)
The following candidates were defeated in the primary. Their responses, if any, are still available here, but have moved behind the buttons below.
- Aaron Clegg
- Bill Houlin
- Ernie John
- Doug Richards
Note: The questions in the post were sent to all three candidates by e-mail on Tuesday, July 18. Candidate responses are ordered alphabetically by surname. Responses may be slightly edited for grammar, punctuation, and format.
- Published: 25 July 2017
- Updated: 31 October 2017
Taxes, Utility Rates, and Fees
If elected, how will you decide what the proper level is for each of these?
- The City’s portion of our property taxes.
- Culinary and pressurized irrigation water rates.
- Impact fees.
(Updated 31 October 2017)
I would analyze these with current costs and needs, to assure these are to be minimized as much as possible. I would also make sure you get what you pay for.
The challenge with property taxes is that several entities levy taxes on our properties. The city is one of the entities with the authority to levy property taxes. Other entities that levy property taxes include the county, the school district, and special service districts. Understanding this is important because, although the city can set its own levy within allowed maximum amounts, the city does not function in a vacuum. Any changes to the City’s portion of property taxes must be weighed against other taxes and fees levied. My approach would be to consider the overall tax burden picture for our residents and businesses. In general, I would attempt to maintain overall levels currently in place. See my response to the road question below for a specific example.
I support a graduated model for water use. I do believe if you use more water, you should pay for more water. This incentivizes users to manage their own water use. Within this construct, I believe services provided by the city should be self-sustaining. The fees collected for culinary water and pressurized irrigation must cover at the very least maintenance and operation costs. Ideally, fees should also cover the debt service for bonds incurred for capital improvements. Providing self-sustaining services also requires the city to be frugal and efficient so that fees are competitive.
Impact fees should be based on the cost the city incurs to provide the services. This allows the city to recoup the expenses undertaken by the city to accommodate more residents and businesses. Sometimes, costs used to define impact fees have to be forecasted into the future. Whether based on past or forecasted expenses, impact fees must be based on concrete justification. The level of impact fees need to also remain competitive with surrounding communities.
Property taxes must cover much of the city’s necessary expenses that its residents need. That determines the amount of tax. I favor working to reduce our debt, while maintaining those services. The city’s portion is not the largest part of our property tax bill, however.
Rates for both of our water systems have to cover the costs involved. It was publicized before the vote on the secondary water project that the rates would increase. However, many people did not realize that and have been disappointed.
Similarly, impact fees must be calculated to cover the costs of the impact any new development has, in order to not place an increased burden on existing residents. Those fees need to be evaluated periodically.
(no response yet)
Roads and the 2013 Road Bond Issue Proposal
In the 1990s, to balance the budget, the City drastically reduced road maintenance budgets, in effect borrowing millions of dollars per year from our infrastructure, without calling it borrowing. This shortfall became the norm until it was corrected about a decade later; by then we were already tens of millions of dollars behind – and it costs more to rebuild a failing road that to maintain it properly. This has led to much discuss and controversy, including a failed bond issue proposal in 2013.
Did you support or oppose that bond issue in 2013? Why? Have you had second thoughts?
How do you propose to help us address our road needs, if elected? Where will we find the funding to catch up?
(Updated 31 October 2017)
Opposed. I thought the approach and transparency were poor. I’ve written extensively about bonds and why they fail while in graduate school
I would make roads and infrastructure the number #1 priority.
In 2013, I did not support the road bond because, based on the information I had at the time, I believed the bond was proposed to cover ongoing maintenance of roads. From my perspective, the bond seemed like a band-aid without a sustainable plan to cover ongoing maintenance needs of the future. I do believe bonds can play an important a role in financing our city, but generally as a last resort and never to cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs. Covering maintenance with debt would be unsustainable and akin to living off credit card debt.
Yes, since the bond failed in 2013, I have had second thoughts about my decision. I have come to understand some of the road needs extend beyond ongoing maintenance and because of past neglect are more akin to capital improvements. I am still hopeful that we can find ways to address our road needs without debt.
If funding the roads were simple, the city council would have already done it. I envision a multi-pronged approach that will help identify creative and sustainable solutions to fund our roads. Here are a few elements to my approach.
- Best Practices: Cities throughout the state are operating with many of the same constraints we have. A best-practices approach prescribes that we look at how other cities are tackling the same issue. It might also help to look far beyond our neighboring cities.
- Maintenance Prevention: While we are rebuilding or resurfacing some roads, we can take steps to keep other roads in better shape. Here are some examples: we can require utilities to pave across the whole road instead of patching a trench; we can require boring instead of patching, where appropriate; we can require private roads which might be annexed into the city to have the same standards as public roads; and we can increase or enforce compaction requirements.
- B & C Road Funds: Because the state legislature reconfigured the formulation of the gas tax, the city’s portion of the B & C road fund has been, and will likely continue, to increase. The city’s portion this year was $1.3 million. The increase will ease the burden a little bit. But the B & C fund was never intended to be the sole source of funding and needs to be supplemented from other sources.
- Transportation Utility Fee: The approximately $2 million allocated to roads in this year’s budget, included $500,000 from property taxes. Because not all properties in our city pay property taxes, only some of us are carrying the load to maintain our roads. One promising idea for funding over the long term is to add a utility fee which would be combined with an equivalent reduction in property taxes for taxpayers. The utility fee would be added to everyone including those that do not pay property taxes. This would need to be done with careful consideration so that not too much of the burden is placed on tax-exempt entities. However, I do like the concept of everyone helping to pay for a service that everyone uses.
The road bond proposed in 2013 was a start, but not necessarily a good one. The problem with it was that there was not a complete plan in place to complete the project. I propose a series of informational meetings to have the residents be involved and develop a more complete understanding of the new 10-year plan. This should be like the bond proposals for the library, fire station, police and courts building, and the purchase of property for Art Dye Park. Those issues were supported by the voters and the results have enhanced our community.
(no response yet)
More questions and answers will follow soon. If you’re a candidate whose answers do not yet appear here, it’s not too late to send them. If you support a candidate whose information isn’t here, it’s a great chance to offer that candidate some help.
For candidate contact information, see American Fork City Council Candidates Contact Info.
A similar sequence of questions and answers from the mayoral candidates begins here.