Summit County cuts $5m from its budget as officials outline which projects will be delayed
The Summit County Council cut another $2 million from its 2020 budget on Wednesday, meeting the $5 million target it had set in the face of the steep expected drop in revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of the county’s operating budget goes toward employee compensation, and with less money expected to come in, the county has frozen merit raises and cost-of-living adjustments and mostly stopped hiring, holding open some 30 positions.
The cuts come as the county is mobilizing resources to fight the pandemic, asking staffers to jump into unfamiliar roles to support the Health Department’s efforts, County Manager Tom Fisher said.
The county’s housing and economic development director, Jeff Jones, for example, has focused almost entirely on the economic recovery effort, Fisher said, and all current workforce housing projects have been put on hold to aid the emergency response.
On Wednesday, Fisher shared recommendations with the elected officials about which projects should go forward amid the new economic reality and which projects should be delayed.
The council adopts a work plan along with its budget, and Fisher said some items would have to be removed from the plan in light of current circumstances.
“You can continue to do more with less until you do less with less,” Fisher said.
Bigger projects set to be delayed are the planning and construction of a Kamas park-and-ride, a plan to create a housing authority and planning for how to use recently acquired property along the Old Hwy. 40 corridor.
Projects that Fisher recommended should proceed include the Jeremy Ranch roundabouts, bus rapid transit planning and the application process for a major development eyed at the site of the Park City Tech Center.
Councilor Kim Carson requested that Fisher reconsider delaying a master planning process for senior citizen programming, but was told there are logistical challenges, including how to safely seek input from seniors during the pandemic.
Chair Doug Clyde requested Fisher add a stormwater management project to the plan that the county engineering department is close to undertaking, and Councilor Glenn Wright requested the go-ahead to convene an ad-hoc committee to consider waste-to-energy proposals without relying as heavily on county staff.
The $61.4 million operating budget approved in December has now been slashed to $54.2 million, a drop of nearly 12%. That includes the $5 million in requested cuts by the council and more than $2 million in grants the Health Department applied for but will not receive. The grants would have expanded substance abuse and mental health programs, Behavioral Health Director Aaron Newman said.
The loss of revenue does not impact current programming, Newman said, but it prevents the department from expanding offerings like drug court, which he had hoped to make available to those awaiting trial or those who had committed misdemeanor-level offenses.
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