FAQ - FY2018 Budget
Why is the Council considering maintaining the existing property tax rate?
Maintaining the existing rate would increase revenue by $808,389, allowing Ogden to fund currently unfunded essential services. For FY2018 alone, the City is nearly $300,000 short in funding a fully staffed police force, $400,000 short in covering facilities expenses, and thousands short in funding trails, parks, fire, and planning. This is due to a loss of buying power.
We have all personally experienced the effect of inflation; $20 does not go as far as it did 20 years ago. This is an even greater issue for cities because Utah’s property tax structure prevents municipalities from automatically adjusting revenues to address the impacts of inflation. Property tax is designed for revenue neutrality, meaning that the revenue the City receives stays the same every single year, with some adjustment for new growth.
For example, if Ogden generated $10 million in property tax revenue last year, the State Tax Commission would use their models to adjust the rate to generate $10 million for this year, plus new growth. As values increase, the property tax rate proportionally decreases.
Because property taxes are fixed and do not account for inflation and because Ogden went without an increase for more than 30 years until last year, the City is three decades behind in adjusting for inflation. This is not sustainable.
How much would the proposed property tax increase affect my tax bill?
The advertised 7.2% increase is not a 7.2% increase in the total tax bill. It may not even be a 7.2% tax increase to Ogden City’s portion of the bill. It is a 7.2% increase over the certified tax rate to maintain the current rate. On a $167,000 home, that equates to less than $20.
The FY2017 Budget was $199 million, and the FY2018 Tentative Budget is $184 million. How has the budget decreased, despite an increase in property taxes?
The $199 million total in FY2017 and $184 million total in FY2018 represent the combined total budgets for Ogden City, the Ogden Redevelopment Agency, and the Municipal Building Authority. The City’s budget was $180 million in FY2017, and the FY2018 budget, as proposed, is $166 million. In FY2017, the City issued Water and Sewer bonds in the amount of $17 million, which were accounted for as one-time revenue. If the FY2017 budget is adjusted for the bond revenues, there is actually an increase in the City’s FY2018 budget. The City’s General Fund—where all tax revenues are deposited--increased 2.45% in FY2018.
Ogden’s tax rate is already among the highest in the state. How can the City justify a property tax increase?
It is true that Ogden’s tax rate is the third highest in the state – behind Salt Lake City and West Valley City. However, the average home value in Ogden is significantly lower than most other cities in the state. It costs, on average, $167,000 to purchase a home in Ogden; whereas, the average home in Centerville is worth $261,000. It costs the City the same amount to provide essential services, such as police, fire, and water, to a $167,000 home as it does at $261,000 home. Ogden’s tax rate is higher to help adjust for that difference.
Additionally, larger cities have more expenses than smaller cities because they offer more amenities and have more residents and visitors using their services. Maintenance costs increase with the higher use roads and facilities, there is more demand for public safety, and more money is spent on recreation and staffing to support events and amenities.
How much of my property tax bill does Ogden receive? Where does all of the money go?
Ogden only collects about 18% of the total property tax bill.
More than half of property taxes go to the Ogden School District.
Weber County collects about the same proportion as Ogden City.
The remaining 11% dispersed amongst Central Weber Sewer, Weber Basin Water, Weber Area Dispatch 911, Mosquito Abatement, and Weber County Assess and Collect.
Most of the key changes highlighted in the budget involve salary increases. Didn’t the City do this last year?
Employees responsible for performing Ogden’s essential services. Employee compensation accounts for almost 85% of the total budget, so it is an important consideration in the budget approval process. The most significant element of last year’s budget was the implementation of step pay plans for police and fire employees to better enable these crucial departments to recruit and retain employees in a competitive market. It also provided for merit increases for general City employees, but didn’t address the issue that general City employees went several years without any increases. Retaining good employees saves the City money in the long run, so it is important to take care of our employees, whether they are police officers and firefighters or the employees who manage our water, garbage, records, planning, and growth.
I’m sure I can find $800,000 somewhere in the budget that isn’t being well-spent. Why can’t you do what the rest of us have to do when times get tough and tighten your belt?
Municipalities operate under generally accepted governmental accounting principles. Much of the City’s revenue is restricted to specific uses and not available to cover shortfalls in the City’s General Fund where the City’s essential services are funded.
Council members and staff have spent the past several months, including several late nights, going through the Mayor’s proposed budget. We have been making adjustments to the budget during that time and will continue to do so until August 8th. We rely on your feedback to make these difficult decisions and encourage you to go through the budget if you have the time and desire.
It is incredible how tight the budget is and how well our employees are able to stretch a dollar. However, we must fund our essential services such as police and fire. We can only delay funding for so long. As an example, you may choose not to get your car serviced during tighter times. As the years go by, if you fail to service your car, the resulting damage to your car will catch up with you and the costs may be greater than if you regularly serviced your car. In the case of the City, the largest shortfalls are with police and facilities. Kicking the can further down the road in these areas may result in even greater costs.
Some of the side streets (and even 2nd Street) in NE Ogden are in need of maintenance. Are you planning for and budgeting enough for street repair and upkeep?
Unfortunately, Ogden's needs outweigh the resources available for street maintenance, and this year’s harsh winter took a toll on many of our roadways. However, Ogden is budgeting and planning for street maintenance as best it can. The Administration prioritizes improvements based on the streets that have the greatest need of repair.
In FY2016, Ogden City spent $9.3 Million to maintain and preserve City roads. There was $9.5 Million allocated in FY2017. As for the FY2018 budget, there are several different funding sources for street maintenance proposed. About $9.6 Million is allocated to address street repair and upkeep, and we expect several million more some to come from funding sources not accounted for in the budget.
Last year the Council approved a tax increase to provide law enforcement and firefighters more pay. Can you confirm all of our police and firefighters received their raises and explain what kind of increase they actually saw. Can you also address if there have been any indication this pay increase has made Ogden's police and fire departments more competitive with other areas?
Salary increases of 4% were provided to Public Safety employees, and Police and Fire corrections were also added to account for years of service when raises were foregone. This action also included a commitment to continue offering competitive pay through the implementation of a salary step increase program. The base starting salaries for Ogden's police officers and firefighters were increased to provide more competitive starting wages.
During the past year, there have been several messages of gratitude from Ogden's Public Safety officials, and there have been instances that Ogden's staff has been recruited by other entities but have chosen to remain in Ogden.The City has also been working hard to improve its hiring process for Police and Fire. On January 24, 2017, the Council unanimously formed a Public Safety Employee Appeal Board to replace the former Civil Service Commission. This was done to simplify the initial hiring process and significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to hire a new Public Safety employee. The Police and Fire Chiefs are also working hard to proactively implement other means, in addition to the salary increases, to improve the retention of employees and their overall experience working for the City.
Considering our budget was such that we needed to increase the tax rate to provide police and fire a needed and better wage, have any of you pinpointed an area in this budget that can be improved upon to save taxpayer dollars? Whether that be an area with a budget that could be cut or an area that can be made more efficient to save tax dollars while maintaining its services or even increasing services?
Ogden City administrators have done an outstanding job throughout the years of stretching limited dollars while still providing exceptional service.
Despite an increase in Ogden’s population, Ogden City Administration has proactively decreased the number of employees per resident. Our Fire Department is successfully operating with 14 fewer fire personnel than in 1998, and our Police Department is well below the national average of two police officers per 1,000 residents, with just 1.7 sworn personnel per one-thousand people living in Ogden. And that doesn’t take into account the increased need for public safety measures that coincide with the growing number of people visiting Ogden, as it is becoming a more popular destination city.
Along with finding ways to operate with fewer employees, our department managers have implemented numerous other cost-saving measures. Our Public Services Department saves about $286,000 each year by providing in-house engineering services, has significantly cut the cost of concrete replacement by utilizing methods such as saw cutting, and has lowered water production costs with the new water treatment plant and remote meter reading capabilities.Ogden Human Resources staff have cut training costs by utilizing online training programs, and Facilities have put several energy saving measures in place. Our Fire Department saves almost $350,000 each year in additional ambulance staffing costs by filling those positions with existing staff, and our Police Department is saving money by implementing online citizen crime reporting and reducing travel costs by providing training in-house. Additionally, both Police and Fire reduce costs by partnering with other local agencies to provide mutual aid.
City staff is also hard at work building revenue sources to take some of the burden off of taxpayers, including an increased focus on grant-seeking efforts. Ogden Business Development has brought retail into Ogden, such as Walmart, WinCo, PetSmart, Ross, and Wayfair, and Business Depot Ogden has experienced 1 million square feet of new construction. City staff is seeking out innovative solutions to make the airport profitable, including increasing airport parking revenues and incentivizing additional commercial air service.
How do the wages of Ogden City employees compare to the wages of employees of other cities in the state?
Every two years Ogden City goes through a bench-marking process for non-public safety employees to compare each total compensation package against five similar cities in Utah—Logan, Murray, Salt Lake, Provo, and Sandy. The total compensation packages for these cities are averaged to determine an appropriate, competitive wage. As a result, Ogden City employees are not the highest, nor the lowest paid employees, but are somewhere in the middle.
I see that the council has agreed to transfer the funding from non-departmental Juvenile Court Graffiti Program of $33,700 & increasing the Public Services ‐ Structural & Mechanical part of the Graffiti Program. Was the non-departmental part of the program not as effective? What does the Structural/Mechanical part of the program focus on?
The City no longer uses the Juvenile Court Graffiti Program. Public Services is now responsible for graffiti removal so the funds were transferred to there to help offset costs on-going work.
Other cities give low-income seniors exemption from city taxes. Can we do the same?
There are five different tax relief programs available for Weber County property owners and renters, which were created by the Utah State Legislature:
- Blind (certified legally blind)
- Veteran with a Disability (VA disability rating of at least 10%)
- Deployed Military (deployed out of Utah for 200+ days)
- Circuit Breaker (low income or widow/widower, aged 66 or older)
- Abatement (low income, under age 66)
The tax relief forms are available at the Weber County Clerk/Auditor’s office and on their webpage: http://www.webercountyutah.gov/Clerk_Auditor/add_tax_relief.php
How is it possible that the City is three decades behind in addressing the impacts of inflation? Don’t taxes go up when home values increase?
The State Tax Commission has a formula that automatically decreases the tax rate when home values increase, so the total tax revenue the city collects is the same even when home values increase. The only increases cities see, unless they do a Truth in Taxation hearing, is from new growth, or new developments.
It seems the Council and Administration have made an extra effort to increase transparency and community outreach. Can you describe those efforts?
Ogden has undertaken several initiatives and projects that work to increase transparency and enhance community outreach and engagement.
Website The City launched a new website in an effort to increase transparency and access to local government. The new website provides enhanced search capabilities, responsive design, translation technology, interactive maps, and embedded social media and multimedia. Council meetings are now live streamed on the new website at ogdencity.com/livestream.
Branding Ogden is continuing its efforts to build a unified brand for the community. The FY2018 budget carries forward $285,000 that will be used toward branding projects including establishing a unified wayfinding system, corridor cleanup, downtown beautification, and improved marketing efforts. An additional $74,000 is allocated to marketing efforts geared toward drawing tourism into our community.
Increased Transparency To increase transparency, the FY2018 budget increases funding for public noticing and special meetings by $3,800. The Council is also exploring options to upgrade the technology in the Council Chambers and Workroom.ERP Use the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to provide improved software management and to identify future cost savings opportunities. Develop a transparency module for residents to readily access city financial information and to more fully understand revenues and expenditures.