City Hall, enjoying economic rebound, pegs budget at $87.7 million |

City Hall, enjoying economic rebound, pegs budget at $87.7 million

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

It is budget season at City Hall.

And it is not expected to be nearly as difficult for Park City leaders to craft a spending plan as it was during the depths of the recession. Park City has enjoyed a robust rebound from the downturn, key figures like sales-tax collections and construction numbers show. That has given Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council room to maneuver as they consider the budget.

Staffers have proposed an $87.7 million balanced budget for the 2015 fiscal year, running from mid-2014 until mid-2015. The operating budget, which funds City Hall’s day-to-day expenses like salaries, is proposed at $53.9 million. The number is an approximately 5.5 percent increase from the 2014 fiscal year operating budget. The rest of the budget would be put into capital projects.

An increase in City Hall’s portion of property taxes is not requested. It has been years since City Hall has raised its portion of the property taxes. Staffers who have researched the topic have not found evidence of the last increase. Park City voters over the years, though, have passed ballot measures increasing property taxes to raise money for conservation purchases and pedestrian-bicyclist improvements.

There has been little apparent interest during the first weeks of the budget talks. The 2015 fiscal year will be the first of City Hall’s two-year budget cycle. The elected officials are scheduled to hold a series of additional discussions and hearings in the coming weeks. They include a May 29 discussion about operating expenses and fees, a June 5 talk about the compensation of elected officials and broad budget policies and capped by a June 12 meeting when the final budget will be presented. The City Council is expected to approve the budget at the June 12 meeting.

Some of the highlights, according to the Budget Department, include:

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  • an increase of $363,000 in salaries. The increase is requested to keep City Hall salaries in line with other communities the municipal government uses as benchmarks. The benchmark survey, as an example, showed the salary of the chief of police in Park City was below other places. The proposed budget increases the top range of the chief of police from $124,212 annually to $132,117. City Hall salaries are budgeted in a range, and the range of most positions would not change under the budget proposal. Staffers, though, may earn a raise within the range based on performance.
  • an increase of approximately $200,000 to ensure City Hall complies with the Affordable Care Act. The increase would primarily cover the costs of adding 24 City Hall staffers to the health-insurance plan available to municipal staffers.
  • the addition of two new full-time positions to the Building Department, a response to an extraordinary increase in construction activity. One of the positions would be a senior-level building inspector while the other would be a business license inspector. The senior-level building inspector position will be converted from a full-time contracted job to a regular full-time position.
  • shifting the victim advocate position in the Park City Police Department from a part-time post to a full-time one. The person will also oversee the department’s evidence room.
  • adding a lieutenant to the Police Department. The position was made possible financially by eliminating a senior-level detective and a sergeant from the budget. The detective retired and the sergeant was promoted to the new lieutenant slot.
  • a recommendation that funding for not-for-profit grants be increased to $515,000 from $444,000, a jump of nearly 16 percent.

    The elected officials are also setting aside funds for capital projects. In the 2015 fiscal year, staffers propose making $5 million available for Main Street improvements as work continues on streetscape upgrades. The funding sources will be split between sales taxes and state grants. Improvements will include redone sidewalks and new plazas.

    A second phase of improvements to Deer Valley Drive, estimated at just less than $1 million, is also envisioned in the budget. The work is planned this summer and would include bus pullouts, sidewalks and streetscape enhancements.

    Funding for the renovation of the Park City Library and Education Center, a major project expected to cost $9.3 million, is split between the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Of the total, $5 million is sought in the budget now being crafted.

    Thomas and the City Council, meanwhile, are addressing the politically touchy topic of the compensation of elected officials — essentially their own salaries and benefit packages. A study conducted in recent months found the compensation trailed communities used as a comparison. A citizen commission seated to study the compensation recommended the compensation be increased.

    The proposed budget calls for the salary of the mayor be increased to $42,553 annually from $23,467 per year, an 81.3 percent increase. The annual salary of the City Councilors would increase 71.9 percent, from $12,735 to $21,893. The increase, supporters say, could attract a wider field of candidates in City Hall elections.

    The elected officials are also eligible for the municipal government’s family health and dental insurance plan, valued at $16,196.40 per year. They may receive the cash equivalent if they opt out of the coverage. The mayor receives a $3,000 car allowance annually.

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