Budget hearing gets sparse public input
Ryan Summerlin December 13, 2013
Public input at Summit County’s first of two hearings on its 2014 budget was surprisingly low on Wednesday, although a second and final hearing is scheduled next Wednesday in Coalville.
Highlights of the 2014 proposed budget include an increase in total operating expenses from 2013 from $45.3 million to $51.3 million. However, most of that increase is allocated to capital projects for road maintenance. The money for capital projects is increasing from $2.255 million in 2013 to over $6.7 million for 2014.
During the hearing at the Richins Building on Wednesday, county resident Ron Decker said that public works and public safety are the two things "of utmost importance" to him, and added that this budget features "paltry" increases in those two categories.
"Administrative costs from the last two years have increased by 45 percent. Sustainability has increased by 400 percent," Decker said. "I was offended because I though the whole sales line [for the 2014 budget] was that it was about public safety and public works."
Decker added that public safety is only increasing by about seven percent while public works is increasing by six percent.
"Unfortunately, I’m just seeing growth in government and not in the services that I feel benefit our direct community," Decker said.
The only other member of the public to speak was Preston Campbell, the president of the Park City Homebuilders Association, who urged the Council to keep the added building inspector in the budget, stating he expects growth to continue well into next year and beyond.
After the hearing, Council members addressed mainly Decker’s concerns. Council member Chris Robinson refuted Decker’s comments about the "paltry" increases to public safety and public works by stating that one has to look not only at percent increase but real dollar increase. Public safety’s budget is increasing by over $825,000.
"I do believe this budget did what we said we needed the tax increase for," Robinson said. Tax increases in the Municipal Services Fund added $1.4 million, while increases to Service Area 6 added around $185,000.
Council member Roger Armstrong noted that, for public safety, the Sheriff’s Office is gaining three additional deputies that will be out on the streets, as the Council added a deputy, a secretary and unfroze another deputy position this year. The addition of a secretary will allow a deputy that is currently doing administrative duties to be out on patrol.
Armstrong also addressed Decker’s statement regarding the Sustainability Department’s budget, which is just over $500,000. Of that amount, however, $414,128 comes from grants.
"I’m very comfortable and pleased [with those numbers] because sustainability is one of the Council’s strategic goals," Armstrong said, adding that water quality, sewer and air quality issues are important. "That’s a budget I’m happy to own and I think the money’s going to be well-spent."
Armstrong also commented on Decker’s concern that Economic Development, which is under the Sustainability Department, should be under Community Development.
"Economic development and planning go hand in hand to some degree, but not entirely," Armstrong said. "This Council has taken a path of trying to plan economic development because unplanned economic development creates a higher risk, especially in the Snyderville Basin, for negative infrastructure costs and negative impacts on the community."
Economic Development staff is working to revitalize East Side businesses as well, Armstrong said, as they have suffered during the economic downturn and have struggled to attract business.
The Summit County Council will hold its second public hearing on the 2014 budget on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Summit County Courthouse, 60 N. Main Street in Coalville.
To view the updated 2014 budget and the public budget flyer, visit summitcounty.org, click on ‘Government’ and then ‘Summit County Financial Reports.’