Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for September 9, 2009
Are County lawsuits worthwhile for taxpayers?
The big news this week is that our Kane County Commissioners have lost another legal action associated with their attempt to gain county ownership of roads on public land. A federal appeals court in Denver ruled Kane County has no authority to remove signs on Monument and BLM land and replace them with signs authorizing off-highway vehicle use. This decision against Kane County is just one of many setbacks the Commissioners have experienced in a string of lawsuits spanning over 10 years.
Despite years of battling in court, our County Commissioners have failed to secure ownership of a single road on public land. The federal courts have made it clear that each and every one of the roads Kane County government wants to claim RS2477 ownership of will require substantial proof submitted in a court of law. If county government decides to follow through with this plan, the taxpayers of Kane County can expect to be paying for a protracted and expensive legal road, extending for years into the future.
Here is the crux of the matter faced by local taxpayers:
•For over 10 years Kane County has been engaged in an effort to gain control or ownership over grazing, water, and roads on our public lands.
•Actions by our County Commissioners have resulted in a continuing series of lawsuits in which Kane County has been either a plaintiff or defendant in federal court. The majority of these lawsuits have resulted in decisions against Kane County.
•The legal costs, county staff time, and travel expenses associated with these lawsuits has been high. All local property owners and businesses have been charged property taxes by the county to pay for these lawsuits.
•The Taxpayer Association of Kane County estimates over the past several years that local taxpayers have paid over $1 million dollars in additional property taxes to pay for this legal campaign.
So, where do we go from here? Is the amount of taxation being charged to businesses and residents a good investment in our future… or is it a waste of taxpayer dollars? Some people believe we should battle for the supremacy of local rights over federal regulations on public land. They believe taxpayers should pay for these legal actions no matter what the cost.
Other people question the value of continuing an expensive battle we appear to be losing. Why throw away good money when the results are so poor? Most of us just hear strong words, myths and exaggerations from the extreme sides of the argument… and as a result, we don’t know what to believe.
It’s time to get the facts straight and sort this issue out. Local taxpayers need to have a truthful disclosure of the costs of the county’s legal battles. How much are we paying the Salt Lake City attorneys? How much county staff time and resources have been spent on these lawsuits? How much will we be spending if these lawsuits continue?
We also need to consider whether or not this battle is worthwhile? How will our lives be different if our county does succeed in gaining RS2477 ownership of dirt roads on BLM land? Will the results be worth the ongoing expense to businesses and families?
The Taxpayer Association of Kane County will be hosting a public meeting this October to examine the issues and tax consequences of Kane County’s legal conflicts with the federal government. Invited speakers will address the pros and cons of this important taxpayer issue.
In preparation for this meeting the TPA is asking Kane County government to supply accurate information on the expense of these legal battles. Our association will also ask for fiscal projections of what it will cost taxpayers if the lawsuits continue into the future.
Are these Kane County lawsuits worthwhile for taxpayers? The October TPA public meeting will be a great opportunity to learn about our county’s struggle with the federal government, so that you can make up your own mind about whether the goal of gaining local control of public lands is worth the expense in higher property taxes.
Would you like updates on this and other important taxpayer issues? We invite you to join the Taxpayer Association of Kane County. Simply email your name, address, and telephone number to Join@TaxpayersOfKaneCounty.Org. Membership is both free and confidential. We now have over 400 concerned taxpaying members who want to keep life affordable here in Kane County. Come and join us!