Budget balancing options debated
November 30, 2012
The Summit County Council continued to debate the best way to balance the Municipal and Service Area #6 funds during a work session Wednesday.
Three options were placed before the council: attempt again to raise taxes on the two funds, move some of the expenditures from the smaller funds into the General Fund or cut positions and services.
"There are three road projects that have been proposed," Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier said. "I think you could make a very valid argument that they affect the general public as well the Municipal Fund area. So I’ve proposed a 50/50 split on that."
Councilmember Claudia McMullin asked why they would consider eliminating positions if there is an alternative.
County Manager Bob Jasper responded that the county needs to achieve an affordable and stable budget. "My recommendations also include some changes in the splits," Jasper said. "But I think if you try to do it all that way, then you’re long-term deficit spending, and you’re going to go right back in the hole."
Jasper added that he doesn’t want to lay anybody off. "I swear to God I don’t. I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it. I see the faces of people I lay off. On the other hand, I have to recommend something to you that I feel is stable."
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Councilmember Chris Robinson said he doesn’t like splitting expenditures among budgets as a solution because none of the funds have strong balances. "So to just say, let’s switch it to the General Fund, that may be a Band-Aid for a very short time. But we’re still deficit spending as Jasper said."
The third alternative calls for the freezing of three sheriff’s office positions, in addition to the two recently frozen, as well as two road worker positions.
Councilmember John Hanrahan suggested that instead of freezing the positions, they allow the impacted departments make their own cuts.
"If we just gave you an amount, would you do something different, or would you still have to cut five positions?" Hanrahan asked Summit County Sheriff’s Office Sheriff David Edmunds.
Edmunds replied that cutting positions was a "nuclear option," and that there is a strong possibility he would find a different solution if he’s given control over department budget cuts. "I think that’s what you should do."
Members of the public expressed mixed reactions to the budget dilemma. Two citizens present at the work session spoke in favor of a tax increase.
Lauren O’Malley, of Summit Park, said she has studied the budget carefully and would be happy to give the council money to plow her road.
"You haven’t raised my taxes since 1977, since my house was built," O’Malley said. "I would like to pay my fair share for the services that I’m receiving. I love the services I’m receiving."
Thomas Spencer, of Jeremy Ranch, said that if the council decides not to raise taxes, they won’t be representing him responsibly.
"I don’t want my taxes to go up $500 five years from now because we’re letting roads go downhill, and that’s exactly what would happen," Spencer said. "I would much rather have an incremental tax now. I will pay $50 or $100 more a year so we don’t have these road problems down the road that will cost us a fortune."
In an interview Thursday, Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt argued the county is threatening to cut public safety as a scare tactic.
"It always gets people worked up and then they tend to be willing to accept other increases in taxes," he said.
Schmidt said he is against any tax increases and that the county needs to get its spending under control instead.
"You can’t continue to tax, and tax, and tax people to death," Schmidt said. "You have to cut services. You have to make some hard choices and cut some of those luxuries out."