NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden leaders have scaled back a proposed property tax hike in the 2023 spending plan to 24.5% as they take steps to finalize the document.
Residents still seem leery, though, at least most of the 30 or so who addressed Mayor Neal Berube and the North Ogden City Council at a public hearing on the issue. Now, city officials say they’ll take another look at the spending proposal in light of the critical comments, see if there are additional ways to pare back the proposed increase.
“I also commit to you, we’ll take seriously your comments this evening. We’ll relook at this and see what adjustments we can make,” Berube said at the end of Tuesday’s truth-in-taxation hearing.
City Council members Blake Cevering and Charlotte Ekstrom echoed that. “We’ll go back. We’ll look,” Ekstrom said.
Among the comments Tuesday were calls to cut city spending to head off a tax hike and worries by those on fixed incomes about covering the cost of higher taxes. Some noted they already have plenty of financial uncertainty to face without a tax hike — rising inflation and the possibility of a recession.
As originally put forward, North Ogden proposed a 41.55% increase in property tax, boosting collections for fiscal year 2023 to $2.66 million, up from the $1.88 million or so the city would be able to collect without a tax hike. Officials later scaled that back, with a budget proposal that was the focus of Tuesday’s hearing calling for collections of $2.34 million in property taxes, up $460,000 or 24.5%.
The owner of a home worth $524,000, the median value in North Ogden, would pay around $326 in property taxes under the 24.5% increase, up around $62.12 from the taxes without a hike, according to City Council member Phil Swanson. The total proposed general fund budget for 2023 calls for $10.35 million in spending.
North Ogden’s proposed increase is one of several that emerged among taxing entities around Weber County as part of 2023 budget talks, riling many who worry about the prospect of paying more for government.
Ogden officials approved a 16.8% property tax hike on Aug. 2, which will generate an extra $2.7 million for the city, and Weber School District officials approved a 13.7% tax hike on Aug. 3, which will generate an extra $9.61 million for the system. Both proposals generated strong backlash from many. The Ogden School District is proposing a hike, which will be the focus of a truth-in-taxation hearing on Aug. 18.
Before the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in North Ogden, Swanson said city officials and council members had closely scrutinized spending in every city department looking for areas to cut. “It’s been a very laborious process,” he said.
He said the proposed increase stemmed from extra funding needed in several areas. Some $225,000 is needed to remedy an “accounting issue” that stemmed from the way North Ogden police cars had been valued from year to year. An extra $253,000 is need to bolster city workers’ pay, $100,000 is earmarked for possible mid-year pay increases in a bid to retain employees and $40,000 is needed to cover higher fuel costs, Swanson said.
Construction of the new North Ogden Police Department building, meantime, is not a factor, according to Berube. The structure is expected to cost $12.4 million to $13.75 million, with $9.75 million coming from bond funds and up to $4 million coming from city coffers.
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