With recent attention given to the idea of community development center, or recreation building, I along with the other commissioners believe it is important to clarify statements made about county debt service payments.
County taxpayers approved a general obligation bond in 2001 for eight million dollars to financially support the construction of the Sevier Valley Center. The debt created by that bond has a specific payment schedule for 20 years that expires in 2021. General obligation bonds are paid by taxpayers with county officials pledging the “full faith and credit” of county taxpayers until the debt is paid. That pledge means that county elected officials will increase tax revenues, no matter what; to ensure that bondholders are paid the principle and interest until the bond expires.
State law requires that when general obligation debt is fully paid, the tax rate is reduced so that revenue is no longer collected to pay that obligation. This prevents elected officials from capturing a “windfall” after taxpayers have met their obligation.
There are only two ways that county commissioners can capture that same revenue stream for another activity or project. First, return to the taxpayers with a proposal that requires voter approval. In other words, ask voters and taxpayers if they are willing to approve a tax increase to fund a general obligation bond.
If voters approve, then the tax rate would be changed to generate the revenue to pay the debt.
Secondly, the county commissioners could hold what is known as a “truth-in-taxation” hearing that is a formal public hearing. Again, this hearing is required by state law along with notices and disclosures that outline how taxpayers would be affected if the rate were changed to capture additional revenue.
This second method does not require voter approval.
The Sevier Valley Center has been a community success by any standard. It has paid, and will continue to pay, dividends that benefit our business community and make our lifestyle even more enjoyable.
The key to that success was the willingness of residents and taxpayers to use their money to fund the project using public institutions to make the project happen. Credit should be given to the late Representative Brad Johnson who negotiated with the Legislature to fund the ongoing maintenance and operations of that facility using state generated revenues. The institutional partnership between Richfield City, Sevier County, the Sevier School District, the State, and the ongoing financial and administrative support by Snow College is a demonstration of what partnerships can accomplish.