The following information by Mayor J.H. Hadflied recently appeared in the Daily Herald.
Recent reports in the news list American Fork as one of the “most expensive cities,” and numbers it in the “worst five” cities, as it relates to government spending.
The information was based on a report created by the Utah Taxpayers Association, a non-profit ‘watch dog’ group whose mission is: “to assist in bringing about economies, consistent with efficiency, in the administration of our public affairs.” For years the group has been known to be an independent voice that holds government accountable for its spending choices. It has been a service and is well respected.
When we read the articles, we were surprised and confused. Especially since last year American Fork was named the most affordable city in Utah by the well-recognized research group Movoto. We did what any responsible City would do: we looked at the numbers.
Here’s what we figured out:
1. The Association did not use “apples-to-apples” math.
Let’s say you live on the American Fork side of the street, and your neighbor lives on the Highland side. Your families are the same size and live in similar homes. You pay similar property taxes, and your kids attend the same schools. You even shop at the same stores and go to the same restaurants.
The difference, based on the collection of sales tax, is that both families are likely shopping, eating at restaurants, and even going to the Fitness Center in American Fork – because that’s where a majority of services are. That’s great news because we want community vitality, and the collection of sales tax keeps our economy going.
However, in the Utah Taxpayers Association study, they put yours and your neighbor’s money from sales tax into the “total taxes collected” in American Fork and divided by just American Fork’s population. This poor math leads to the false conclusion that all sales tax collected in American Fork is paid by American Fork residents. This isn’t true. For example, we have five auto dealerships that generate a great deal of sales tax. According to one of those dealership owners, less than 30% of sales of those vehicles actually come from our residents.
That makes the assumption that if the certified tax rate (i.e. property tax) goes up, the City is getting more revenue, and it must be spending more.
In truth, the percentage of revenue the City is able to keep from taxes you pay through property tax is relatively small.
For instance, the certified tax rate just adopted, the City’s portion of property tax revenue is only 21% of the total tax you pay. The rest goes to the County (9%), Alpine School District (66%), the water district (4%), and a very small amount goes to the State for assessing and collecting fees.
On an annual basis, an independent auditor audits the City. Last year, the City received an unqualified audit opinion; that is the best audit opinion the City can receive. And the City received an Aa3 rating by Moody’s.
Some of the things the Tax Payers Association added into the calculation included fines and forfeitures - which are from speeding ticket fines and impact fees (which are not always paid by just our residents). The revenue that the Utah Taxpayers Association used is not taxes or fees carried by just American Fork residents.
2. The study did not use “apples-to-apples” lifestyle/quality of life comparisons.
Communities are different. Some are “sleeper communities” and some are designed to have a robust economy with jobs, retail, restaurants, parks and other quality-of-life conveniences. We have chosen to be the latter.
Take our Fitness Center, for example. Last year, it ran sports programs that enriched the lives of nearly 6,000 participants and their families. The interesting fact is that half of those participants came from surrounding areas. We charge them higher fees, to give our residents a benefit, but the reality is that having these programs locally is a convenience. Many choose to live here for those conveniences that allow them to have exceptional youth baseball, soccer, scouts, golf, gymnastics, competitive swimming, and other programs – without driving 20 minutes – for an affordable price.
Our City has a beautiful and innovative Library; dozens of parks, responsive road and utility crews, and its residents are leaders along the Wasatch Front.
We have 28,000 residents and have about 13,000 jobs within the City. We have a state-of-the art hospital locally, which brings consumer spending, on healthcare services alone, to our City.
And speaking of health and service: the City services so many emergencies (many where the Fire Department transports patients to American Fork Hospital), that our cost per call for emergency services is the lowest in Utah County.
Regardless, our philosophy has been to create a place where people truly want to live, work and play. Most cities say that, but we mean it. And our well-rounded community proves that.
3. To help residents, we have made many efficiencies in the past five years.
We now contract out our fleet maintenance to save money, and we have restructured several departments to be more efficient. We use volunteers for many events and committees.
This year, we are holding taxes steady – again – which is remarkable considering that the cost of living has gone up since the last property tax raise. Our population has grown since then as well. And in that time, we have reconstructed major roads such 900 W, 300 W, and 1120 N.
So to our critics who pass judgment, looking at a few revenue sources, rather than at our accomplishments, we say, ‘that’s okay.’ We know our community is thriving, and we are glad to be accountable and truthful about how we manage tax dollars. Do not take their word for it, and do not take our word for it either. Our doors, our records, and our meetings are always open for residents to come and learn for themselves.
The Administration Office and Public Works offices will be closed for the Thanksgiving Holiday, Thursday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 29. It will resume normal business hours starting Monday, Nov. 30.
The Library will close at 3 p.m. on Nov. 25 and stay close through Nov. 28 for Thanksgiving.
The American Fork Fitness Center will be open from 5 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day and from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on "Black Friday." It will resume regular hours after that day.
The holidays present unique fire hazards. Check out this Shatner tip about Turkey frying. https://youtu.be/ETBD0EqQGoU.
In an emergency, call the American Fork Fire Department at (801) 763-3045 or call 911.
Wed., Dec. 9, 7 p.m. — Violin Concert
Friday, Dec. 11, 5 p.m. — Lehi High School’s Encore Choir
Mon., Dec. 14, 7 p.m. — American Fork Children’s Choir & Ukulele
Thurs., Dec. 17, 7 p.m. —American Fork High School Orchestra
Monday, Dec 21, 7 p.m. — Timpanogos Chorale performance and sing-along.
Christmas in the Rotunda: Children's Art Exhibit
Each year, art and music fill the Library Rotunda in celebration of the season of giving. This year, the event will feature five free concerts as well as art on display by local children.
Children ages 6 to 12 are invited to create art to submit in the Library’s annual, month-long “Christmas in the Rotunda” art show. This year’s theme for art work is “Songs of the Season.” Kids should choose a song or carol and create matching artwork.
Each child may enter one piece. There is no registration fee. Prizes will be awarded. Registration is Monday, Nov. 30, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., at the Library. Submissions may be drawings (black/white or color), watercolor, oil, crayon, colored pencil, pastel, oil, acrylics, or photographic.
Entries should be mounted on heavy card stock or framed. Framed entries must have a screw on each side of the frame and a wire extended across the back.
Participants are also invited to attend a Young Artists Reception on Monday, Dec. 7 at 7pm at the Library. (Refreshments served.)
A program is planned and awards will be given. The artwork release date will be Monday Jan. 5 from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A study team, including Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), AF City, Lehi, UDOT, UTA and UT CO, is evaluating dozens of concepts and traffic models to find solutions that best meet future transportation needs in the Meadows Crossing area.
To provide input, please go to: http://www.meadowscrossingstudy.com (where you can leave typed comments on the Project Map), or feel free to attend any American Fork City Council meeting (Aug. 11 and 25 at 7:30 p.m.) or Lehi City Council Sessions (Aug. 11 and 25 at 7 p.m.) to make a public comment.
You can also send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the hotline at (801) 980-3440.
Click here for a look at the American Fork Station Area Plan completed in May 2014.
Mon Nov. 30Christmas in the Rotunda Children's Art Show Christmas in the Rotunda Children's Art Show: Children ages 6 to 11 are eligible to participate. The theme this year is "Songs of the Season."
Mon Nov. 30American Fork Youth Theater Premiere Troupe Auditions for Disney's “The Aristocats” Kids. November 30. 4-6 p.m. Highland City Community Center. 3rd-6th Graders. $50/month plus registration fee. Contact Koreen for pre-sale tickets, to sign up for an audition or for more info. 801-368-5908.
Mon Dec. 7Timpanogos Chorale with Wasatch Winds The Timpanogos Chorale, a high quality choir in northern Utah County, will be performing an enjoyable Christmas concert, with many favorites and lovely versions of favorites, in several venues for 2015: Dec. 7 - TC with Wasatch Winds in AFHS auditorium 7 p.m. Dec. 12 - Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork 7 p.m. Dec. 21 - Christmas in the Rotunda in AF library 7 p.m. Dec. 22 - Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City
Tue Dec. 8
Sat Dec. 12Timpanogos Chorale The Timpanogos Chorale, a high quality choir in northern Utah County, will be performing an enjoyable Christmas concert, with many favorites and lovely versions of favorites, in several venues for 2015.
Mon Dec. 21Timpanogos Chorale The Timpanogos Chorale, a high quality choir in northern Utah County, will be performing an enjoyable Christmas concert, with many favorites and lovely versions of favorites, in several venues for 2015.
Tue Dec. 22Timpanogos Chorale The Timpanogos Chorale, a high quality choir in northern Utah County, will be performing an enjoyable Christmas concert, with many favorites and lovely versions of favorites, in several venues for 2015.