Tax appraisals and assessments were recently sent to area homeowners. As folks opened those letters, slight registries were made at the University of Utah’s seismic center as one person after the other fainted and fell to ground. Blip. Blip. Blip. Many of them got up and sent bitchy letters to the editor to local newspapers. As if that would help—criminy, people, the local papers want land values to go up! A depressed community can’t support crappy newspapers! Have you missed all those glowing reports of how fast our homes are accelerating in value? Weren’t you pleased to read about that and then nearly spending your newfound riches? Only to find that there are not enough qualified buyers or Californians to go around? But your appraisals and associated taxes went up anyway?
I opened my appraisal letter and saw that Salt Lake County claims my home is far more valuable than I thought. They have it increasing dramatically over the prior year, like homes across the valley. Then I looked at the next line that says how much tax I have to pay this year on my home. I live in Murray. What, me worry? Nope. My property taxes went down around 10 percent from the year prior. I looked at the bottom line and quickly calculated that those savings equal about 25 visits to Murray’s aforementioned fine drinking establishments. I hit the door heading for my first freebie at the Leprechaun Inn. Next stop, 5 Monkeys. Then Frankie and Johnnie’s. Then The Point After.
I’m probably going to pass on Southern Exposure. For now, anyway. It’s a fine place and all, but I’m into survival these days. A nightclub—a Gentleman’s Club at that—sitting only a 6-iron away from a police station is not likely to gain me Survivorman points. Maybe in the daylight hours. We’ll see. After all, it’s only fair that I pay some gratitude to the dancers. They attract the car salesmen, who, rarified after a midday visit, sell more cars for the auto dealers that abound on Murray’s State Street. Those auto dealers pay piles of taxes to Murray. That makes my taxes go down. I’m eternally grateful to the auto dealers—and the dancers.
I hope that gratitude pays dividends to the Murray school District. Murray has a blue-collar and immigrant history dating back to its earliest days, which continues today. Drawing students from both sides of the Jordan River (the demarcation line between east valley and west, between the haves and have-nots) Murray’s schools not only are economically and culturally diverse, they are flat-out good schools to boot. Most of Salt Lake Valley currently wallows in a dirty fight to split the Jordan and Granite school districts along east and west lines. Murray City School District quickly squashed such folly.
The issue is couched as one of economic fairness with east-siders claiming they are paying higher taxes to educate students who live on the west side. The east side is declining in student numbers while the west side is growing, thus leading to that apparent disproportion. East siders say they want more systemic input, more control and more value for the tax money they pay. What they don’t say is this: “We’re eternally grateful to them, but we no longer want our money being used to the benefit of Asians, Mexicans, Samoans and Tongans, ahem, among others, including Jack Mormons and multilevel marketers.”
Salt Lake City’s early east-siders sent their children to such snotty schools as Skyline, East, Olympus and Highland high. Their children moved south and sent their own children to Brighton and Alta taking their snottiness and biases with them. Until fairly recent demographic changes, boundary remapping and school busing, all of those schools were more lily-white than a bouquet of white lilies. Not counting the occasional Pedro, Gino or Gus, each of whom were named “funniest” or “smartest” in the high school yearbook, those schools were bereft of real diversity, particularly religious.
Meanwhile, the west side was sending plenty of dollars into those schools’ coffers. With employees stretching from the Bingham Canyon mine to the Magna smelter, Kennecott Copper was once one of Utah’s largest employers, essentially subsidizing Jordan and Granite school districts. Talk to old-timer students from Bingham or Cyprus high schools, though, and they will tell you that when it came time for Jordan or Granite school districts to divvy the funds generated by their mining or farming parents, Jordan High and Granite High (both east of the Jordan River) got preferential dispersal, taking the form of better team uniforms and equipment, improved school facilities like gyms or auditoriums, and so on. The parents of those students paid lower taxes thanks to Kennecott’s largesse.
To no avail. There is no evidence such disparity made for a better student or person at either school. I’m for splitting those school districts, too. But instead of a river boundary, how about a wall so the west-siders don’t even have to see the creeps who live beyond it. Staff Box Are you an east-sider or a west-sider? Defend either. Natalie May:
I’m an east-sider; always have been. I was driving through West Valley last week and, my God, it was depressing! It just doesn’t seem like those residents take pride in their area. Faith Burnham:
I live in Kearns … the coolest thing we have going for us is the ice-cream truck that only plays Christmas music. Derek Jones:
I was born a west-sider but I don’t really feel like defending it. Mostly because when you’re living on the east side it really blows to try and find a way out to USANA or the E Center when all you want to do is drink. A $100 cab ride round trip is no bueno! Paula Saltas:
East-sider, of course. When John and I were dating, I told him I had never been Kmart. So he took me there, ditched me in the store and had me paged over the intercom. I was mortified, and he thought it was funny. I am not a snob. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not! Jesse James Burnitt:
East side all the way, baby! Easy: Riding to work in the morning is much easier downhill. Plus, the views are better. Steve Matney:
The phrase “west side” accompanied by the appropriate hand signal is defense enough, homie. Susan Kruithof:
Well, I use to be an east-sider, but I now reside just a hair over to the west side—literally a hair. I now just consider myself a Murray girl where we don’t have to take sides. Holly Mullen:
I’ve been both. It’s sort of like changing clothes or your hairstyle to fit your mood or stage in life. I grew up on the east side. I moved all over the country and lived on all kinds of sides. I came back to Utah, bought a house and lived on the west side from ’98 to ’01. Now I’m back on the ES. Different neighborhoods serve different needs. I’ve loved them all. Jamie Gadette:
Technically, I’ve always lived on what is considered the east side of various towns, but I don’t necessarily dig the connotations of being an east-sider. I did live in the Los Angeles Valley for a bit, which is not west, but nowhere anyone wants to be. Justin Healy:
This seems like a really crappy trick question that I shouldn’t answer. I am the floating island of Justin. I visit all. The only enemies I have are Sandy and Draper, so I guess that makes me a north-sider. end
It depends on what you’re looking for, but for smart residents of the area, Murray fits the bill as the valley’s top city. Murray has a mayor who spends more time administering his city than trying to put it “on the map.” Murray has its own cops and fire department. It has its own school district, its own water and its own electricity. Murray has everything any decent taxpayer could want from Little Leagues to fine parks and recreation centers to decent roads and safe streets. Murray has its own parades, fireworks and picnics. Yet two things clearly stand out in Murray’s favor: lots of bars and low taxes.