More than 40 people attended a public hearing two days earlier and more than 20 people voiced their opinion regarding the proposed tax increase. Most of them supported a tax increase, but some balked at such a large tax hike. The town council originally proposed raising the tax rate by a little more than 100 percent for two years then in the third year lowering the rate back down to a permanent rate that would still be higher than the current rate. As reasons for the tax hike, the council cited the need to replace the town’s aged road equipment with a new leased backhoe and grader, continue putting money away for the repaving of Castle Valley Drive, begin funding for the eventual replacement of the Castle Creek culvert and raise $20,000 for a Castle Valley watershed water study.
During the public hearing, Jack Campbell pointed out that the town has been operating on a smaller and smaller budget each year and basically gave up three years of taxes by not increasing taxes to keep up with inflation since the tax rate was first established. Former mayor Bruce Keeler said establishing that tax rate was “like shooting fish in a barrel,” meaning that the council then really didn’t know where to begin. But he said, “We need to damn well pay for what we do.”
Another former mayor, Damian Bollermann said he personally doesn’t oppose a tax increase as long as the money is being spent well. As the former road manager, Bollerman said he learned how to keep the roads up on little money and they did all of the maintenance themselves. He added that the community has a lot of history of people doing things themselves. Eleanor Bliss responded that, looking around the room and seeing a lot of gray hair, the reality is that we don’t have the youth and energy to do a lot of the work ourselves any longer. She commended the council members for their work.
Other speakers included Janie Tuft, who suggested alternative methods of funding like forming a service district, and suggested the town look at other funding avenues such as bonds. Ric Fornelius, a property owner since 1976 who lives in Cottonwood Heights, reminded the council that non-resident property owners pay much more than residents, who get a 40 percent break. Jane Dillon supported the tax increase and told the council to “stay on track to where you are heading.” Mary Beth Fitzburgh said that it is unrealistic to have functional roads without a budget increase. And Ed Derderian said, “This might come as a shock, but I’m not opposed to a tax increase.” He suggested looking for good used equipment.
At the special council meeting the following Thursday, Aug. 14, council member Tory Hill said she was happy with the turnout at the public hearing. She said it was a good example of how government should be run and she appreciated how the public came and participated in the process. She said she left with a good feeling that night. In the end, Hill said that she looked into used graders but the cost was still around $200,000 and there was no long-term financing available for used equipment. She said that she will also look into a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant or similar grant but the town will still consider a purchase of used equipment after hearing from the community about it.
Hill said she tried to get the tax increase down to 80 percent but had to settle on a permanent 85 percent increase to meet the needs of the community. The council approved the tax increase by a 4-0 vote. That will increase the property tax revenue from $66,808 in 2014 to $121,475 the next year. With class “C” road funds and other taxes, fees and grants, the town will have a total operating budget of $194,475 compared to $153,100 this year.
Thirty-five years ago this week a petition was circulating around the valley to convince the Utah Public Service Commission to pressure Continental Telephone into provide telephone service to the residents of Castle Valley. Joseph Ingels, a staff member of the committee of consumer services, told valley residents that a hearing was to be held in Salt Lake City to hear arguments for a rate increase by Continental Telephone. Ingels said that a representative from the valley could ask to be part of the hearing and present the petition. Pat Drake and Mary Cluff were in charge of the petitions.
Construction crews ultimately began laying telephone cable July 29, 1980. Drop wire was hooked up to individual homes by the following August and phone service began in December of that year.
Thirty years ago this week, the Castle Valley Property Owners Association sponsored an ice cream social for the community. Everyone who had an ice cream freezer was asked to bring it and the ingredients were provided by the POA. Board chairman Curtis Halls said afterward that he was very pleased with the turnout. The fire department was also called out that week for a lightning fire west of Round Mountain.