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Courthouse foresees tax hike talks

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Summit County Attorney David Brickey joked that he won’t request money from taxpayers for a fridge for his lawyers as county department heads scrambled to get their 2008 budgets approved.

Members of the Summit County Commission, who shot down Brickey’s odd request last year, are now poised to receive a new $52 million wish list from their department heads.

"When departments come in with new projects, the main thing you want to find out is, where is the money coming from?" County Auditor Blake Frazier advised the board.

Property owners in Summit County may be lucky to avoid tax hikes in 2008.

"We’re trying to do as much as we can without a tax increase or without bonding, but we will have to do some bonding at some point in the near future," said Frazier in a telephone interview Monday. "It is a tough balancing act. We have to have substantial growth."

Driving next year’s budget increase is the slated $8-million realignment of Landmark Drive meant to help relieve traffic gridlock at Kimball Junction, he said.

Officials also expect to build a new facility at Quinn’s Junction to perhaps headquarter the Summit County Health Department.

"It’s going to be a fairly expensive year," Frazier said, adding that together the projects could cost $12 million. "Realistically, to do all of the capital projects that are necessary, we’re going to have to do some bonding. It creates an automatic tax increase to make those bond payments."

The work on Landmark Drive is next year’s most significant road project, Summit County Engineer Derrick Radke said.

Overall, the budget for Summit County Public Works will increase dramatically, Frazier said.

The $46 million budget in 2007 included a spending plan for Public Works that increased 32 percent to nearly $13 million.

The 2007 budget increased 19 percent from the previous year and officials in the county didn’t raise property taxes.

Other budget hikes saw the Summit County Sheriff’s Office spend roughly 16 percent more last year. The budget for the Summit County Attorney’s Office increased 18 percent.

Eight new full-time employees were slated to be hired in 2007, including two new detectives, a school resource officer, two new librarians and a code enforcement officer for the Community Development Department.

Special projects carry a hefty price tag but officials hope new growth helps cover next year’s budget spike.

"We’ve got to pare down this year’s some," said Frazier, who expects the county to grow about nine percent.

More than ever, officials depend on revenue from sales tax to balance budgets.

"Twenty years ago, sales tax for the county was about half a million dollars," Frazier said, adding that today that figure is $10 million. "It’s making up a larger portion of the county’s budget. And that’s a good thing because a lot of sales tax comes from outsiders."

Still, hot resort destinations like Park City have better chances to survive economic downturns, he insisted.

"The one thing that we have in our favor, being a resort type county and community, you will find throughout history that recreational areas are impacted less by recession than non-recreational areas," Frazier said. "People will spend their last dollar on recreation or a vacation."


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