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Petition could spell layoffs

A recent Summit County Council decision to increase a pair of taxes that affect citizens in unincorporated areas could be put on hold if opponents of the measure gather enough signatures to put the question to voters in 2014.

The increases are scheduled to into effect Nov. 1, but if the petitioners are successful the tax hike would be frozen. And according to the county manager, that could force the council to make further staff and road maintenance cuts in the upcoming budget year.

Supporters of the petition effort need to gather 2,115 qualified signatures by Oct. 8 to put the tax on ice.

"The budget was built assuming we’d have these revenues, so we will be short," County Manager Bob Jasper said. "For example, right now we are doing a rebuild overlay of the entrance to the Canyons. We’ve already spent our obligated money, so we will be short. We will be short considerably."

He added that if the tax is frozen, the county will have to start doing more layoffs to balance the budget.

"We’ve already done layoffs for three years," Jasper said. "I’m not sure which departments we’ll cut at this point, but we’ll somehow have to rebalance the budget. And that’s before people even have a chance to vote on it."

The two tax increases being petitioned are the municipal fund tax and the Service Area #6 tax, which were adopted Aug. 22.

"So that’s primarily where we’ll have to cut," Jasper said. "The two major expenses in that municipal fund are sheriff’s patrol and road maintenance."

Although, he adds, the council has not yet discussed specifics.

"What I find interesting is, the people that have circulated this petition, none of them live in Service Area #6," he said. "So they are able to block other people’s taxes without even living in the district. It has no impact on them."

He said they are going after the council’s ability to approve county-wide legislative acts, even though they don’t have to pay the tax levies themselves.

While the county could change the distribution of money from the general fund somewhat, the general fund is only supposed to pay for countywide services, he said. And the county has already been cutting positions to balance what money they have.

"The assessor’s and surveyor’s offices have both lost positions," Jasper said. "All of our departments have lost positions. It’s not like we didn’t already cut the heck out of the budget over the last few years. We cut about 15 positions."

Jasper added the council could probably cut the assessor’s or treasurer’s offices deeper, but that those are small departments.

"So I think, the reality is that we’ll have to cut in the areas paid for by the Municipal Fund, which is Sheriff’s patrol, as well as major streets and roads," Jasper said.


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