Tax Hearing: Tough Call, But Right One

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The Payson Town Council last night thought hard, swallowed twice — then did the right thing.

The council voted to have a hearing on boosting the town’s property tax rate to the legal maximum — which will cost the owner of a $200,000 house $4.86 annually.

Perhaps this isn’t the right time to raise town property taxes, but we support the hearing. If residents agree, then go for it. But if residents uniformly oppose the increase —the town should abandon it. We know it’s a relative pittance — but the state wants to raise its sales tax rates by one percent, the federal government has run up a trillion-dollar-plus deficit and Payson has already raised some fees — all in the face of a deep recession.

People are losing jobs, suffering through pay cuts and increased expenses for such everyday things as gasoline and food. Is it really the right time for government to be adding to the financial burden?

That increase will raise $73,000 — not much in the town’s $26-million operating budget, but significant considering Payson has to borrow money from the water department to provide even a minimal contingency fund for the coming year.

We appreciate the points that Councilor Mike Vogel made in dissent. People in this community have suffered real pain as a result of this long, frightening downturn. Vogel notes that for people faced with losing their homes, healthcare and retirement savings, $5 or $10 does matter.

All true. That’s why the town will need to make a strong case for the extra money.

Advocates for the increase say folks paying the property tax bill on a $200,000 home really won’t even notice the $4.86 — nor even $10 for a $400,000 house. And that’s probably true — if this were the only increase hitting their budgets.

We do feel that despite months of tight budget control and cutting, some plausible reductions may remain, even in essential departments like police, planning and the town attorney’s. But overall, cuts have been sensible and widespread. The town has turned to volunteers to run parks programs, left police positions open, canceled maintenance contracts, combined positions, largely frozen wages, held off on police and fire training, canceled road building and street maintenance, shut its doors on Fridays and is now considering a painful and potentially damaging $50,000 cut in its contract with the Humane Society to run the animal shelter.

Moreover, advocates say the town needs the extra $73,000 from a rate increase in case the legislature follows through on the latest threat to cut money going to towns and cities — which could cost Payson $900,000. That alone would wipe out the reserves — which came mostly from borrowing money from the water department anyway.

So we’re glad the council had the courage to schedule a hearing on the minimal increase in property tax.

Now we hope the citizens will respond by attending the hearing and voicing their opinions.

Lighting candles of hope

The night is dark and long. You can curse that darkness — or light a candle. Then if you want to be moved and inspired by the people with the courage to light candles — show up tonight at Payson High School at 9 p.m. for the luminaria services to remember people who have died of cancer.

Perhaps 1,000 people will participate in the ceremonies tonight in support of 400 people on 33 teams who will walk a 12-hour relay to raise money to seek a cure for cancer. The Relay for Life will start at 6 p.m. tonight and will conclude at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. The campaign has already raised $20,000, thanks to the love, fighting spirit and courage of people who refuse to simply huddle in the dark. Make no mistake — cancer remains a great darkness. This year, 192,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer alone — and 40,000 will die.

But generations of people like those who will show up tonight have made great progress — even in the shadow of such figures. In the past 35 years, the five-year survival rate after a diagnosis of breast cancer has risen from 75 percent to 90 percent. The radical mastectomies that once were the standard treatment have mostly been replaced by lumpectomies. Other advances have identified key genes that increase risk, refined hormone and chemotherapy treatments and improved early detection.

Each such discovery represents the lighting of a candle of hope in the greater darkness.

So, go on — light a candle — for those we have lost and those we will save.

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