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Crawford moves forward with mill levy increase, municipal court

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The Crawford Council is moving forward with plans to put a mill levy increase on the November election ballot and to establish a municipal court.

The mill levy increase would help offset anticipated losses in energy severance taxes due to mine closures, according to statements made at past town meetings. In anticipation of putting the issue before voters, council invited Delta County Assessor Debbie Griffith to speak at the June 15 work session.

"I'd rather you have the right information and good information than to talk to somebody that doesn't know and get poor information," said Griffith.

The roughly 10 citizens in attendance were given pamphlets and other information on how property taxes and the mill levy work. Griffith presented a chart listing all in-town properties, minus properties owned by churches and government, which are exempt. The chart details the classification of each property, 2016 taxes, and an estimate of how a 1 percent and 3 percent increase would affect their property taxes.

Crawford residents are currently levied a total of 5.5365 mills on their assessed property value (equal to 7.960 percent of their actual property value) in annual property taxes. Almost half of that goes to the school district, the county receives almost one-third, and the remainder goes to the other special taxing districts, such as water districts and the fire protection district.

For example, a property valued at $101,267 would have an assessed value of $8,061 (101,267 X 7.960 percent) and would pay $446.30 (8,061 X .055365 percent) in taxes annually. Of that money, the Town of Crawford receives 2.420 percent (8,061 X .02420), or approximately $19.51.

Crawford's total estimated assessed property value is currently $2,489,088 and is expected to bring about $6,023 to the town's general fund, according to a handout from Griffith. An increase of 1 mill would increase revenue by $2,489.09; an increase of 3 mills would increase revenue $7,467.26.

So how would that look to the property owner? An increase of one mill on that $101,267 property would raise taxes to $454.36, or an increase of $8.06, per year, and an increase of 3 mills would result in a tax bill of $470.48, an annual increase of $24.18.

That increase was smaller than expected, said Mayor Wanda Gofforth.

Griffith also fielded questions about the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a complicated amendment to the state constitution, passed in 1992, that restricts the revenues governments can collect. It also limits increases in property tax revenues to no more than 5.5 percent above the prior year's revenues. Depending on how Crawford's 2014 de-brucing ballot language read, said Griffith, the town may be able to increase the mill levy without an election. (As of submission of this article, the town was still unsure of where it stands on this issue.)

Griffith also explained that seniors 65 and older can receive 50 percent off of the first $250,000 value of their home. In other words, a house valued at $100,000 would be assessed based on a value of $50,000. Delta County has the highest per capita rate of seniors receiving the discount, said Griffith. Seniors must have owned and lived in their home at least 10 years.

Crawford council will also pursue the establishment of a municipal court. Representatives from the Delta County Sheriff's Office were invited to speak about how that might work, and to answer questions regarding what the department can do to support the town.

"You're very lucky to live here. There's very little crime," said Delta County Undersheriff Mark Taylor. "There's very little reason for the sheriff's office to come up here."

Taylor said the sheriff's department does not deal with town ordinances or code enforcement, but rather focuses on issues involving state statute. That includes speed limit violations. The department has 17 patrol deputies, and the Crawford area is patrolled regularly, including at night. "Whether you see them or not might be a different story," said Taylor, "but they are up here."

According to a report pulled from "Computer-Aided Dispatch," or CAD, in the year ending June 14, a total of 65 calls came from Crawford, including 37 from Crawford Town Hall. While the specifics of each call weren't included, and the report didn't include citations or arrests, said Taylor, officers responded to one alarm, one auto theft, VIN inspections, and domestic disturbances. Deputies filed a total of 99 reports for the same time period.

Comparatively speaking, that's a small number, said Taylor. Throughout District 3, including all of the unincorporated North Fork area (excluding calls made from within town limits), dispatch received 866 calls for service. When asked by citizen Carl Page if any calls were received for marijuana violations, Taylor said he wasn't aware of any. "By far, statewide, country-wide, alcohol would be ... the more abused violation," and generates calls for service.

One of the biggest problems in Crawford is dogs, said former mayor Jim Crook. Taylor said the sheriff's office isn't in a position to deal with town dog ordinances, but would respond to reports of vicious dogs.

The town isn't assessed any fees for the current level of service, said Taylor. The department does, however, contract with Orchard City, which recorded 454 calls during the one-year timeframe. In District 2, total calls, excluding Orchard City, totaled 801. In District 1, excluding the city of Delta, 1,148 calls for service were received during the year.

The records help explain why resources are generally directed to other areas of the county, said Taylor. Crawford is low on the list. "Don't get me wrong," said Taylor. If the town requires more services, that would require some discussion.

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