Hurricane Valley Fire District Board votes on proposed property tax hike

ST. GEORGE — A proposed property tax hike for the Hurricane Valley Fire District that would have bumped taxes to nearly 90% within the district was shot down Monday by a majority of the Fire District’s board.

An engine from the Hurricane Valley Fire District at a state of the city community address, Hurricane, Utah, May 2, 2022 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George Utah

“There’s not going to be a tax increase,” Hurricane Mayor Nanette Billings told St. George News on Wednesday.

Billings sits on the Fire District’s board along with other elected officials from Toquerville, LaVerkin, Springdale, Leeds, Virgin, Rockville and a citizen-at-large representing Kolob and the unincorporated parts of Washington County covered by the district.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, during which the board was set to vote on whether to recommend the Washington County Commission approve the proposed tax increase for the district 2023 budget, the city councils of Hurricane, LaVerkin and Toquerville each made public statements denouncing the proposed property tax increase.

As previously reported by St. George News, reasons the Fire District gave for the proposed tax increase were to help combat inflation that impacted the prices of supplies and fuel, keep the district from borrowing additional funds to continue operations as it had the year prior and cover additional personnel and fire station construction costs.

Demands on emergency services prompted by increasing growth and tourism also were cited as reasons justifying the proposed tax hike.

“We continue to face multiple challenges presented by expanded growth, diminished proactive staffing time and constantly changing physical resources as we continue to provide service to the citizens of the District,” the proposed 2023 budget statement reads. “This budget proposal continues to address our major challenges and is designed to stabilize the District’s level of service and continue striving to reach our ever-expanding five-year plan.”

Stock image | Photo courtesy of Hurricane Valley Fire and Rescue, St. George News

The Fire District proposed to raise the tax levy to 0.001589, which translates to an 89.3% increase in property tax for those living within the district’s jurisdiction. This increase reportedly would help restore funding levels for the district to what they had been in 2017 before being eroded by inflation and other factors.

As an illustration of what this tax hike might equate to, the owner of a property valued at $273,700 based on the current rate would owe $197.89 this year, while the proposed rate would have jumped that up to $374.70.

Some county residents living in the Fire District publicly voiced their support and opposition to the tax increase through letters to the editor submitted to St. George News.

A truth in taxation hearing on the proposed tax was held Nov. 21, followed soon after by a public hearing prior to the Fire District board’s vote regarding the tax increase last Monday.

By Monday, members of the board had received a total of 319 emails and taken hundreds of calls and letters from concerned residents who opposed the tax increase. A handful of residents who spoke during Monday’s meeting also shared their objection to the measure before the vote.

“I feel this tax increase is a real big joke,” one man said.

Billings made a motion to deny recommending the County Commission adopt the requested property tax hike. And the motion passed with a majority vote of 5-2 with one member of the board absent due to a family emergency.

Before the vote, a board member asked to discuss why Billings wanted to deny the tax increase.

“The budget revenues have been manipulated,” Billings said. “They were showing a deficit when there was not a deficit. … They didn’t list all the revenues on the budget.”

In this file photo, Hurricane Valley Fire and Ambulance responds to a five-vehicle crash on state Route 9 and North 3700 West, Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 3, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

The deficit the Fire District budget pointed to was $3.4 million the agency said it had to borrow to be able to keep operating through 2022. Instead of a deficit, Billings said the district actually has a surplus of cash since it is set to gain $3 million in funding through preexisting means by the end of the week.

The debt the Fire District said it incurred was actually its removing one-time money out of a contingency fund to pay for new firetrucks, she said.

Billings also said the claims of increased demands on emergency services provided by the Fire District were overrated. It will nonetheless receive funding from impact and other fees related to new growth.

“We don’t need to have an increase this year,” Billings said. “You can manage better and stop spending if you don’t have the money.”

The Fire District board will meet again on Dec. 20 to revise the proposed 2023 budget to reflect the removal of projected revenue that would have been generated by the tax hike.

With the board voting not to move a recommendation for the tax increase forward to the Washington County Commission, the push for the proposed hike came to an end.

While the County Commission allows the Fire District to operate with a large level of autonomy, it appoints members to the district’s board and holds the power to approve or deny proposed tax increases if recommended by the fire district board.

Ed. note: It was originally reported in error that the Washington County Commission had to approve the annual budget of the fire district. It only becomes involved in the district’s budget process when a proposed tax increase is on the table and requires the commission’s ultimate approval as the fire district can only recommend such increases and not implement them.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!