The city council of Sunnyside voted Tuesday to amend its property tax rate. That decision came after concerns from Sunnyside Cogeneration that the increase would adversely affect the financial position of the power plant.
In its budget set to take effect on July 1, the city had proposed to raise property taxes from .002203 percent to .004203 percent. Under the previous rate, the city generated roughly $119,517 the proposed rate would have increased that amount by more than $104,000.
However, Sunnyside Cogeneration would have been forced to shoulder a substantial portion of that increase. As a result, the city and power plant have discussed over the course of the last month possible ways to meet the needs of the city without raising rates so much.
In a closed executive session last week, the council considered the matter behind closed doors. The power plant had presented a proposal to the city prior to the meeting that requested the city consider a lower tax increase.
"We agreed to work with the city if it had issues," said Mike Blakey of Sunnyside Cogeneration in a phone interview yesterday. Blakey indicated that the power plant would share its resources in order to keep costs down for the city. Those resources included the equipment that the power plant owns.
In order to meet the city's needs, the council opted to raise the rate to .003203 percent. That will generate an estimated $171,901 for the city this year.
"We cut the property tax increase in half, saving money for both the residents in the community and the power plant," added Blakey.
In return for the lower tax rate, Sunnyside Cogeneration also agreed to not ask for their properties to be reassessed for a period of five years. Blakey added that the county may choose to assess the value of the facility sooner than that. However, the county assessed the value this year. Blakey said the assessed value had not changed under the new assessment.
In an unrelated matter, Council member Doug Parsons will be taking a leave of absence. His reserve unit has been activated and will be serving in Iraq for an 18-month period. Parsons was not present at the Aug. 16 meeting, but had requested at the Aug. 2 meeting that the council give him a leave of absence.
At that time, he had proposed that Mike Marquez be appointed to fill the position in the interim. In the Aug. 2 meeting, the council asked the city's recorder, Polly Sanderson to inquire of the Utah League of Cities and Towns what the state laws dictated.
Sanderson reported her findings Tuesday. State statute requires that positions which are vacant for a period of 60 days or more be filled.
In addition, the position presently filled by Parsons is up for election this November. Parsons had indicated he planned to run. However, state statute requires that elected officials be present to be sworn into office. Parsons' 18-month service would limit his ability to be sworn in, and may result in forfeiture of office even if he is elected.
Councilmembers cannot vote by proxy or have someone appointed in their place. Council members may participate by telephone if it is properly advertised that they will be participating in this way.
The state statute regarding eligibility and residency requirements for municipal offices dictates that any official who is absent from the municipality for more than 60 days without a leave of absence is automatically vacant.
As a result, if the council voted to deny a leave of absence the seat would automatically be open and need to be filled after 60 days. As a result of those findings, the council granted an initial leave of absence for 60 days.
Another state statute provides specific provisions for members of the military. That section states, "No public employee, public officer or legislative employee may be required to resign from, vacate or forfeit a governmental office or position as a consequence of entering into active military service."
It further dictates that public officers who enter active service will be granted a leave of absence during that service. In addition, the law states that elected officials will not be granted a leave of absence that extends beyond their term of service.
That law indicates that the council will be required to extend the leave of absence until the end of Parsons' term. That term ends at the end of 2005.
If Parsons chooses to run for reelection, and is not present to be sworn into office, the council will be required to appoint someone to fill the vacancy at that time.
During the leave of absence, Sunnyside's city council will be reduced to four members when Parsons' cannot participate by telephone. As a result, Mayor Bruce Andrews will be given voting power to break any ties between council members.