RD’s Moab City Council Meeting Preview 2021-08-24

[Editor’s note: Both Rani Derasary and Mike Duncan have graciously agreed to let MADAR reuse their regular email updates to constituents. Despite the overlap, we are running both versions of the MCC previews. Readers can choose to read both, either or neither of the previews.]

Our next City Council meeting is this coming Tuesday, August 24. It’s my understanding that this will be the meeting in which the Council needs to vote on what rate to set the City’s property tax line at – whether 0%, or something higher. (My understanding is that a vote is required on this by August 31, 2021; so to me that means the vote needs to occur August 24, unless some other special meeting is set before the 31st.) Please read below for more on that, plus what else is on our August 24 agenda, and other potential items of interest at this time.

City Council meeting Tuesday, August 24 – 7:00pm City Council Chambers, City Hall, 217 E Center Street

You can find the 132-page packet for the August 24 meeting here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_08242021-1064?packet=true. If you prefer the 3-page agenda only, with links to packet parts, that is here: https://moabcity.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_08242021-1064. Here is a breakdown of what’s on the agenda.

Citizens to be Heard (CTBH). You are welcome to come to City Hall at 7:00pm August 24 to speak in the Council Chambers in person. If you’d prefer to submit written comments for CTBH, please fill out the form found here prior to 7:00pm on August 24: https://bit.ly/citizens beheard. Please limit written comments to 400 words.

Proposed Resolution 22-2021: a resolution adopting the Fiscal Year 2021-22 Budget and Proposed Property Tax Increase for the City of Moab.  This is on our agenda as a briefing and possible action. Thanks again to all of you who have written us or attended meetings to speak on this issue. We’ve received many good suggestions, some of which we can pursue under Utah law, and some of which we can’t. We’ve thus been trying to explain the things we can’t do to help get us all on the same page moving forward during segments of our August 10 and 16 meetings. If an update helps, the majority of people writing me this far do favor leaving the City’s property tax at 0% / $0 in 2021-2022, while a handful of residents see value in perhaps considering a small tax this year to help fund various projects. I’d say more people seem open to a gradual property tax in coming years if they are assured it would cover actual ‘needs instead of wants’ that can’t be covered in any other way. In case a recap on how we got to August 24’s agenda item is helpful: 

  • The City held an Open House on the potential of raising the City property tax above its current 0% to as high as possibly 100% on July 14, and a related Truth in Taxation public hearing on the proposed tax and 2021-2022 budget on August 4. (A recording of the August 4 meeting is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq3RVv7_MyM). The City’s Property Tax info page is here: https://moabcity.org/582/Property-Taxes
  • On August 10 the Council held its first regular meeting after the public hearing, during which we had the opportunity to sit as a group to ask questions and share perspectives. At that time we were presented with 5 budget scenarios to choose from, depending on how much property tax each would generate; scenario 1 generating $0 in property tax (0%); scenario 2 generating $1 million; scenario 3 generating $1.5 million; scenario 4 generating $2 million; and scenario 5 generating $3.3 million (100%). As you may recall, the City’s proposal was that property tax be used for a combination of three things: increasing police department staffing; infrastructure projects identified as critical sewer, water and road projects; and raising City reserve funds to a level considered fiscally responsible to be ready to address emergencies. I recommend listening to the August 10 meeting recording if you have not, as several pertinent points were made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLKAv0BI3eA – scroll to the 59:26 mark, ie the 59-minute, 26-second mark.)
  • On August 16, the Council had an additional workshop to ask budget questions. As the different budget scenarios before us ran the gamut from remaining at 0% property tax, to starting to charge more than that, some discussion of property tax also occurred. The recording of that meeting is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoMzySbAVHs.
  • That brings us to August 24. As noted above, the Council needs to approve a budget and decide on a property tax percentage by August 31, so August 24 is the logical time to take that vote, since we have a regularly scheduled meeting on the 24th. Our packet agenda summary on page 23 is now laying out 4 budget scenarios, whereby we’d raise anything from $0 to $2million in property tax in the coming year; FYI, it appears the 5th option we’d had until now – raising $3.3 million – has dropped off the list, presumably as colleagues expressed no interest in our August 10 and 16 meetings in collecting that much this year. Page 24 is the resolution that would adopt the budget and one of the 4 property tax scenarios ($0-$2million). The budget itself is on packet pages 29-68 and there is a State form the City needs to fill out regardless of what property tax rate we set on page 69. The memo on pages 25-28 lays out some of the changes between the City’s April tentative budget and this final one in the August 24 packet; I recommend reading that memo, as it has been updated from the similar memos appeared in our August 10 and 16 packets. Finally, colleague Kalen Jones also recommends this Grand County informational web page: “What is Happening with Property Taxes This Year?”: https://www.grandcountyutah.net/1136/What-is-Happening-with-Property-Taxes-Th.

Proposed Resolution 29-2021: a resolution approving the Record of Survey Amendment for property located at 500 South Main Street, Moab UT 84532.  This is another item on our agenda as a briefing and possible action. Packet pages 70-77 explain that the applicant has 4 adjacent lots in the C3 Central Commercial Zone, and would like to consolidate the 2 northern parcels, and the 2 southern ones, resulting in 2 new lots total. Please note that such changes can be considered without a public hearing under Utah State and Moab Municipal codes.

Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). You may have heard of the HEAT (Home Energy Assistance Target) program, which can help low-income households with home heating utility costs. As I understand it, pages 78-132 of our packet describe a similar program for water bills, called the LIHWAP (Low Income Housing Water Assistance Program), which can help qualifying households pay for drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and groundwater. Like HEAT, LIHWAP will be administered by the State of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services (DWS). Federal funds will make the program possible for the next two years, and there is a chance it will be extended in the future. The City is being asked to sign a related agreement with DWS, presumably as DWS would make payments to the City on behalf of clients needing help with City water bills, and as one needs to document things like non-disclosure agreements to protect confidential client information, etc. The included Water Assistance Program Policy Manual answers many questions about who qualifies and how the program operates. This item is on our agenda as a briefing and possible action. 

Executive (closed) session. While this last item on our agenda will not be open to the public, I can tell you we will be having a discussion regarding deployment of security personnel, devices or systems.

That’s it for our August 24 City Council meeting, except that aside from what’s listed above, the meeting will contain standard items such as: reports from the Council, Mayor and staff (this time with staff updates from the City Manager and Police Department); approval of minutes (this time for: our August 4 meeting – covered on pages 4-15 of our packet; August 6 meeting – page 16; August 10 meeting – pages 17-21; and August 16 meeting – page 22); and payment of the bills. 

Miscellaneous items of possible interest

2021 City Council Election update. As you may recall, the City opted to be one of the Utah communities trying Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) this coming November. Election day will be November 2. With RCV, you do not have primaries, so there will be no August primary as we sometimes had in the past. The deadline for prospective candidates to file to run for the three open Council seats was August 17. (Karen Guzman-Newton and Mike Duncan’s City Councilmember terms, and Emily Niehaus’ Mayoral term, are ending in December 2021 and they are not running again.) FYI six people have filed to run for the 2 Council seats and 7 people filed to compete for the Mayor seat. A related flyer from City Communications and Engagement Manager Lisa Church is attached, and you can find more info on the City’s elections page (https://moabcity.org/236/Election-Information).

Booster COVID-19 vaccines available for immunocompromised. Thanks to the Southeast Utah Health Department (SEUHD) for posting this on their Facebook page recently: “The FDA has authorized the use of booster doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people who are immunocompromised. If you are part of this immunocompromised group, please find a day and time that works for you to receive your additional COVID-19 vaccine at https://www.seuhealth.com/vaccine-scheduling. Details on booster doses for those that are not immunocompromised will be coming soon, pending FDA approval and ACIP recommendations. For more information on this approved booster dose go to https://health.utah.gov/…/cdc-clears-way-for-additional…

Okay, that was an earful, so I’ll end here – almost. I do feel I would be remiss if I did not state to all our residents – and you women out there especially, that I know the two recent homicides in the La Sals have shaken a lot of us. Sadly I only knew Kylen from casual interactions at Moonflower, and I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting Crystal. The apparent violent death of any community member is disturbing enough. Through the conversations, articles and posts I’ve had/seen with/from many of you, I have learned how positively these women impacted others. Thanks for helping me know more about them, and letting me understand the profoundness of our community’s loss. I feel like – stereotypically at least – elected leaders are supposed to be able to share wise words at times like this. I can’t say I have wise words, but I will share that I am simply very sorry, for Kylen and Crystal, their families and friends, their customers and all the people who will now no longer get the chance to experience them as people and watch them age. In addition, I know a lot of you are used to recreating on your own in the La Sals, our canyons and other public lands. I can understand that despite statements from law enforcement that there is no current danger to the public in the Grand County area that you’re uneasy. Some of you have told me you’re staying in for now, some are not adventuring alone for now, some are arming themselves, and some are continuing to head out alone –  pissed off that this happened and determined not to let anyone take freedom from them. I can understand all of you. I’ve asked our Police Chief if there might be anything else that can be shared on the investigation being led by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at this time that might offer some reassurance. Understandably, the Police Department is simply offering support to the Sheriff’s Office and it would be inappropriate for them to comment, plus active investigations can be jeopardized by law enforcement doing so, so please know that I’m waiting like the rest of you for more information on all this, and should you feel more comfortable to head out in the near future with someone else, please feel free to call on me for that, or anything else I can help with.

Thanks for being a community that cares.

Rani Derasary, Moab City Councilmember