University Place wanted to hear if residents would be willing to pay to add police, improve streets and maintain parks and recreation.
The city ended up getting an earful about taxes and a whole lot more Thursday night.
What was intended to be an input-gathering, open house on the city’s finances turned into a heated Q&A session where residents voiced their frustration on the way UP leaders have handled budget cuts, future growth, roundabouts and, of course, the Town Center project.
UP resident Brian Stemp said he moved his family to the suburban community of 31,000 about 12 years ago because it was a nice place to live.
“What I’ve witnessed over the last 12 years is we’ve become somewhat of a laughing stock,” he said in front of a crowd of about 60 people in University Place City Hall.
He added that he would not support any tax increases because the city’s tax rate — $13.78 per $1,000 assessed home value — is already too much. It’s also the highest in Pierce County.
“You’re not only going to tax people out of the city, but people are not going to want to come into the city,” he said.
But officials stressed that the city receives only $1.12 per $1,000 assessed value, and the rest pays for schools, fire and other government services.
The city collects most of its revenue from property taxes, which by itself cannot sustain the city’s services. That’s prompted UP to make budget cuts in police and parks and recreation.
“The bottom line is we are where we are with our finances,” Mayor Debbie Klosowski said. “We wanted to know if these things are important to you.”