In an unexpected turn of events, Duane Schmidt announced Monday night that he would be withdrawing from the race for Seat C, though as of Friday he has yet to officially withdraw, leaving Democrat Kim Carson unopposed for only a matter of hours. Jacqueline Smith, who led the petition drive, announced Tuesday she had filed as a write-in for Seat C.
"It's been a really weird 24 hours," Carson said at the forum. "I thank Duane Schmidt for engaging in very fair and respectful dialogue, and I wish him and his family the very best as he deals with his health issues."
Carson described herself as a 25-year resident of Summit County with a proven track record of leadership, having served for eight years on the Park City Board of Education, where she managed a $50 million budget.
Referring to her opponent's successful petition drive to roll back two county tax hikes, Carson noted that the county held a Truth in Taxation hearing in December before approving the current budget, which included anticipated revenue from those increases, and only one or two people showed up.
"And I don't know where you were. Are you always going to be looking at budgeting by referendum?" Carson asked Smith. Carson also questioned Smith on where specifically she planned to cut to make up for the loss of tax revenue.
Smith replied that the taxes were an exception, and that she wouldn't always budget through referendums.
Without specifying, Smith said the County Council spends money where it is not needed and then raises taxes to fund necessary services, so she plans to look at the budget line-by-line to find areas where the council can increase efficiency and effectiveness.
"There are lots of things we have that are specific needs in our county. But we need to cut the fat on things that are unnecessary items," Smith said.
In return, Smith challenged Carson about budget shortfalls experienced in the Park City School District during Carson's tenure there. Carson replied that the schools' budget was challenging because there were huge swings in the state financial regulations, but that during years of excess, they put the extra money in a reserve fund in preparation for a downfall or a legislative mandate that might impact them.
KPCW's Rick Brough asked Roger Armstrong, a Democrat who is running for Seat A, at what point should the county should "go to the mat" when defending the Snyderville Basin General Plan and Development Code, as the county seems to always be willing to settle when sued.
Armstrong, who is an attorney, said the county needs to be very careful because "if you get into litigation, you can't win, or the win is marginal. You risk losing something other than the lawsuit. You risk change. You risk finding a judge that says the development code is unconstitutional."
Armstrong's opponent Max Greenhalgh called the General Plan and Development Code the county's North Star, but said that for three years the county "has not had hard zoning," which would be helpful in avoiding litigation.
"Hard zoning is the most defensible of any development program, and with hard zoning, you'll have less lawsuits, will be able to cluster development in the least environmentally sensitive areas and safeguard the city from suburban sprawl," Greenhalgh said.
Park Record Editor Nan Chalat-Noaker asked Sue Pollard, running for Seat B, where she thinks cuts need to be made to make up for the $1.4 million cut from the current budget because of the petition drive.
Pollard said she didn't believe the county had a $1.4 million deficit.
"If you look at the budget as what it had originally been (before the tax increases), we don't have that much to cut. But I think there are definitely places where we have extraneous funding," Pollard said, pointing specifically to the wood chipping program and the $25,000 contribution to Utah Recycling.
Claudia McMullin, Seat B incumbent, responded to an audience question about the budget surplus and tax increases.
"In December, when we did our budget, we budgeted for a surplus," McMullin said. "We tried to do conservative revenue estimates and conservative expense estimates."
McMullin said that because of this, the surplus at the end of the year may be bigger than they originally budgeted for.
"Now what I'm hoping, because of Jacqueline and her very successful people, is that our surplus will be sufficient to offset some of that $1.4 million that we were supposed to get to do road improvements, and that we're now not going to get," McMullin said.
Oct. 22 is the last day to register to vote, and must be done online or in-person at the Clerk's Office at 60 North Main in Coalville. Early voting is Oct. 23 to Nov. 2 weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 6 is election day, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voting locations and details are at http://summitcounty.org/clerk/.