Booming economy blesses budget | ParkRecord.com

Booming economy blesses budget

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall officials on Monday presented their budget blueprint for the next two years, relying on Park City’s booming economy to pay for big public-sector construction projects, more municipal workers and upgrades meant to make the city easier to navigate for pedestrians and others not riding in cars.

Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council on Thursday are scheduled to start the annual budget negotiations, with this year’s talks being the first of Park City’s two-year budget cycle. Most major spending decisions are made in the first year, meaning that the upcoming hearings could attract regular Parkites seeking money for neighborhood projects or programs.

Park City Manager Tom Bakaly, who was not available at the beginning of the week, wants to spend approximately $61 million in fiscal year 2008, which starts on July 1, and another $46.6 million in the following fiscal year. His budget proposal is balanced and he does not ask for an increase in property taxes.

"Utah is in a growth mode and the national economy is strong," Gary Hill, Bakaly’s budget chief, says as he describes what he labels a strong budget, propped up by expanding sales-tax revenues and some extra property taxes attributed to growth.

The fiscal year 2008 request envisions spending almost $36.8 million for the day-to-day operations of City Hall, such as salaries and supplies, and almost another $24.3 million on capital expenses like construction projects.

The following fiscal year, City Hall’s operations are forecast to cost almost $37.1 million, with another approximately $9.5 million going toward capital projects. The numbers are about a six-percent increase over the previous two years of the budget, according to Hill.

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The money for the construction projects will be set aside as City Hall continues what has been an aggressive building schedule in the post-Winter Olympic period.

The budget asks for $6 million to retrofit the Marsac Building to make it safe during an earthquake, a project that has long been considered and is scheduled to start in early 2008.

Other budget items include a combined $4 million for a building City Hall wants to construct next to the China Bridge garage, where KPCW and a state liquor store might be relocated, and a town plaza on Swede Alley, $1.5 million for pedestrian upgrades over the next three years and $90,000 annually for sidewalk and paved-trail repairs.

Hill says the pedestrian money could be spent on improvements to streets like Park Avenue, Kearns Boulevard, Comstock Drive and Little Kate Road and the funding could pay for more signs, crosswalks, timers showing people how long they have to cross a street and sidewalk and trail upgrades.

The $1.5 million follows what was a long-running study that researched numerous ways to make the city safer for people walking or riding bicycles.

Meanwhile, Hill says $250,000 is requested to fund City Hall’s share of building a stoplight at the S.R. 224-Meadows Drive intersection, which would be funded by the local government and state transportation officials. Neighbors say the intersection is unsafe and have argued that a stoplight is needed.

Bakaly wants to expand City Hall’s workforce by about 11 full- and part-time positions over the two-year budget, including adding police officers, building inspectors and maintenance workers at the Park City Golf Course. Hill says the budget proposal includes two additional full-time traffic officers, costing about $60,000 annually in salary and benefits. The Police Department has, over a few years, widened its traffic patrols, with Parkites generally supporting the efforts to catch speeders and others who break traffic laws.

The Building Department under Bakaly’s proposal would receive the equivalent of two full-time building inspectors and one full-time officer to enforce building codes, a combined $115,000 in staffing costs. Hill says they will likely be hired as contract employees, meaning they do not receive benefits that regular City Hall workers enjoy.

The Thursday City Council meeting starts seven weeks of scheduled talks and hearings. On Thursday, staffers plan to give updates about the economy and tax revenue and cover City Hall’s salaries. The meeting starts at 2:30 p.m., with an hour-long budget discussion slated to start at approximately 4:50 p.m.

Other budget meetings and hearings are scheduled May 17, May 24, May 31, June 7, June 14 and June 21.