County needs increasing
November 20, 2012
The Summit County Council has started meeting with department heads to discuss the budget. No effort has yet been made to balance the budget, but only to listen to the needs and wants of departments, most of whose budgets have seen continuous cuts over the last few years.
Community Development Director Don Sargent said his budget has gone from $2.3 million in 2008, when he was appointed, to $1 million today.
"We had 25 staff members in 2008, and today we have 17," Sargent told the County Council during the discussion. "We had nine planners, and today we have six. We had eight building inspectors back in 2008; today we have four. So we have changed not only in staffing, but certainly in budgetary amounts, as we are half of what we were in 2008."
Sargent also pointed out the differences in the county’s planning department compared to Park City’s, to which they are often compared.
"There’s the exact same number of staff members in Park City as in Summit County — six," Sargent said. "However, the difference is, we serve an area of 1,848 square miles, and they serve an area of 13 square miles. We have a population of 22,000 outside the incorporated areas, and they serve a population of 7,500. We have two planning commissions; they have one."
Councilmember Chris Robinson asked Sargent if there are any more cuts he can make in his department. "You don’t see any slack in any area where, if you had to make a cut, you would make it?"
Sargent responded that over the last few years, they’ve cut their budget down to the minimum. "I can’t see anywhere else we can cut and not directly affect service levels. We’re trimmed down, and it’s going to be tight to make it work this year."
During a similar budget discussion on Monday, Nov. 20, Summit County Attorney David Brickey told the council that his office has been telling the budget committee for the last six or seven years that they need an additional prosecutor.
"Our numbers have consistently been going up," Brickey said. "We have a very astute and aggressive law enforcement agency. As a result, we’re going to see a difference between just this year and last year of 65 additional felony matters filed in 2012. And Judge Shauna Kerr is seeing a significant increase in the amount of cases that she is seeing."
Brickey also noted that other counties of similar size, including Tooele and Iron County, have significantly larger staffs.
Sheriff Dave Edmunds also spoke to the council on Monday, giving them hard numbers for the increase in service demands on the Sheriff’s Office.
Dispatch center calls have increased 13 percent in the past year to 40,000 calls, Edmunds said. Bookings at the Summit County Jail have increased 48 percent to 1,800. Total incidents have increased from 25,400 to almost 31,000.
"These numbers tell a pretty significant tale," Edmunds said. "But we are adamant service levels do not go down. We are adamant we continue to provide a very high level of service. We believe the constituents here, and that come and visit here, are getting a lot for their money. We’re now in our fifth year of no additional employees, which has really taxed our ability to perform at the levels we demand of ourselves."
John Hanrahan leveled with Edmunds, telling him his budget will probably be reduced, and asked where he would cut.
In anticipation of the budget situation, Edmunds said they have done extensive contingency planning and looked at a variety of ways to reduce expenses if necessary.
"I can tell you, generally speaking, if we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars, the only way we will be able to balance is to cut personnel," Edmunds said.
Council Chair Dave Ure noted that Summit County has always offered law enforcement services throughout the county, without financial participation from any of the municipalities. "Kamas and Park City have their own police departments, but there are four municipalities that are paying absolutely nothing towards Sheriff protection in their own cities," Ure said. "I think it’s time to approach the city councils and mayors of those cities and ask them to help supplement our Sheriff Department."
Councilmember Sally Elliot agreed, saying she has brought the same point up eight or nine times since elected. "It seems quite unfair to people who pay the Municipal Services tax to subsidize municipalities," Elliot said. "Municipalities are not paying their fair share of what it costs to provide them with police protection. Thank goodness there is finally someone else saying this with me. I’m really strongly in favor of charging incorporated entities that don’t have police departments for what they use in Sheriff protection.
The County Council will hold another meeting with department heads on Monday, Nov. 26 at 9 p.m.