$578 of Average Utahn’s Income Goes to City Government

Each year, as city Truth in Taxation hearings occur during the summer. Your Taxpayers Association wants you to be armed with data you need to show government officials just how much of your money they are spending.

Using data collected from the State Auditor, Census Bureau, and cities themselves, the Association creates 2 the Cost of City Government report, which shows the relationship between city government revenue and citizen income in Utah’s 50 largest cities.

Here’s a brief glance on just some of the information covered in the 2017 Cost of City Government report.

On average, Utah city governments take $24.54, of each $1,000 earned by residents, representing 2.45% of taxpayer income. This figure is up slightly from the previous year. Utah cities also collect an average of $578 in revenue from taxes and fees per city resident. This is an increase from 2016 of $14.

Turning to more specific results, South Salt Lake has the highest cost of government, collecting $60.09 of each $1,000 earned in the city, up nearly a $1.50 from last year (or 6.0%). Rounding out the worst 5 are: Salt Lake City ($45.47), American Fork ($42.87), Ogden ($36.55), and West Valley City ($36.31).

The report also documents the amount each city collects in taxes and fees. Salt Lake City, which collects an astounding $264 million, is triple the next highest city, West Valley ($88 million) in terms of government revenue. St. George (3rd highest in revenue), while being the 8th highest city in terms of population, collects $67,012,389 in taxes and fees annually. To put this in perspective, St. George collects $814 annually from each citizen in its city, ranking it 8th highest in the state by this measure.

Salt Lake City collects the highest amount of revenue per capita at $1,362, followed by South Salt Lake ($1,056.34), and American Fork ($936.43). Of Utah’s 50 largest cities, Riverton ranks fiftieth in revenue collections from taxes and fees per person at $278.18. Keep in mind, Riverton does not levy a property tax on its citizens, which keeps the ranking very low.

This data provides a snapshot of how much of each thousand dollars earned by a citizen is consumed by the city government in Utah. Because government is not a private business, citizens are compelled to pay, and the cost of government may not be reflective of the true value of the services provided. Public services provided by Salt Lake City, for example, may not be offered in other cities across the state. Some cities manage trash collection via a city owned and operated trash collection system, while other cities contract with private providers to handle this service. Privatizing city services can usually save taxpayers money and lead to higher quality service.

In the case of many services, the city government shouldn’t be involved at all. For example, if there is a true market demand for a recreational gym, a private company will enter the market and the consumers can pay for their use of the facility without requiring the use of public funds. You can view the entire report to see how your city compares by clicking here.