If you drove to work on a freshly plowed road Tuesday morning, you probably have a public employee to thank. In other places, a storm of Monday night's magnitude would cripple commerce for a week, but for Park City and Summit County road crews, snowstorms are part of their normal routine.
And, if you are reassured by the fact that there are armed law enforcement officers assigned to each of our local school districts, the Summit County Sheriff's Department and the Park City Police force also deserve to be on your Christmas list. This week, in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut, sheriff's deputies and police officers were busy meeting with school administrators to offer support and advice on tightening security to protect our children.
But instead of gratitude, those essential service providers are facing potential budget cuts and possible layoffs.
The Summit County Council is holding a public hearing tonight in Coalville to hear whether citizens want them to slice those budgets even further than they have been cut since the recession took hold in 2008 or to reinstate the tax increases that were shot down by a petition last fall.
Last year, faced with increasing costs and service needs, the Summit County Council approved tax rate increases for Service Area #6 and the Municipal Services Fund. The rate hikes were intended to bolster road maintenance projects and public safety services in the unincorporated parts of the county and would have been imposed only on property owners within those areas. But, after the rates were adopted and calculated into the county's budget for 2012, a group of citizens called for a referendum and successfully put the increases on ice.
But the council can reinstate the taxes for 2013, if there is enough support from citizens. The petitioners, many of whom do not live in the affected areas, only needed to gain signatures from 10 percent of the electorate far from a majority. And it is unclear whether some of those who signed understood its ramifications.
We believe further budget cuts would compromise the safety of citizens throughout the county and that the council is justified in standing up to the irresponsible minority that forced the rollback.
Unfortunately, attending a public hearing in Coalville is not likely to be a high priority during this busy pre-Christmas week. But the stakes are high and your input may well make the difference between preserving the high level of services you currently enjoy and compromising them at the behest of a very vocal minority.
If you support your elected officials' initial call for a tax increase to maintain service levels in many of the unincorporated areas of the county including large swaths of the highly populated Snyderville Basin -- plan to attend the hearing tonight at 6 p.m. at the Summit County Courthouse in Coalville. If you can't attend, make your voice part of the public record by sending an email.
The council members can be contacted can be contacted at: