OPINION: Logan City needs to stop utility fund transfers

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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But for intervening circumstances, I’d intended to attend the Logan City council meeting today to share my $.02 worth regarding your transfers of utility funds to the General Fund.

My comments following are generally addressed to all the council members, past and present, who have favored the transfers.

I am old enough to remember that Logan City leaders used to tout quality of life in the city vs the county due to the low cost of city owned and operated services and electricity, leaving more for families to spend in the city and drive more tax revenues as such. Now the mantra of “profit” taken and put toward enterprises the people may not have voted for, if given the opportunity, and/or require additional user fees to participate in. And some of which compete directly with taxpaying local businesses!

In the printed Public Hearing Notice, it is cited that the City has transferred funds for approximately 30 years. While such transfers are certainly legal, and have become de rigueur for city finances, they are still, by state definition “NOT reasonable” (my emphasis). As “fee(s) in lieu of tax(es)”.

I’m sure Rich has his ways with numbers, so lets do some simple stuff for the moment. Adding up the sums on the notice adds up to $4,721,657. Divided by the latest population count I could find of 48,174 population and 15,828 households, utility transfers alone are about $98 for every man, woman and child. Per the near 3 persons per household average, that’s nearly $300 per HH/year. Looking at my own bill of less than $100 in a given month, 20%-25% of my actual annual utility costs aren’t going to pay utilities at all.

And here’s a bit more to consider; the most recent Federal data I could find listed 11.4% of Utah citizens living below the poverty level. Logan specifically lists as 27.3%, and that was in 2011. No doubt the trend since is not decreasing. Whether it’s 8-10% or $300 per year, that amount to the poorest among us is a significant hit to a family budget, and a third of the people are either there, or very near to it. You’re hurting most the people you claim to be creating a better quality of life for by taxing them more.

If a public utility “earned” such a significant profit on the people in general, and the poorest the same, there’d be peasants with pitchforks at the city gates.

“But for transfers, Logan City would either have to raise property taxes significantly or cut services significantly.” Why not let the people decide? Is it because some little fiefdoms and/or sacred cows would be sacrificed because the people would most likely not accede to higher taxes if given the choice/vote?

I can think of twice in recent years where the council has authorized transfers from utility funds to other enterprises with the promise, to some number of outspoken citizens, that a subsequent rise in utilities would not result. And within a year from those times, we are told that one utility has need to repair old pipes or upgrade power boxes or whatever and there’s a call to increase the rates in order to cover the costs.

The worst part of it is that you’re hitting the people in a part of life that no one can do without in our society. I don’t know anyone locally who can, or would be allowed to live, without paying for their utilities. Hitting the people with “fees in lieu of taxes” is a “we-know-better-than-the-people” despotic use of power and a cowardly end-run around us all. Justifying it on 30 years tradition does not good policy make nor is legality a hallmark of ethics or morality.

This transfer business needs to stop. The utility bills should be for the utilities alone, (growth, maintenance, upgrades). The people should be allowed to vote for or against their taxes, not be ruled by administrative caprice. Especially in this time of economic hardship where so many have to sacrifice to make ends meet, it would be powerful leadership for government to cut to assist the people directly.

You have the power to be the champions of the people. Or you can keep in lock step with your predecessors.

Walt Appel

Logan