Summit County manager’s budget recommendation hinges on property tax increase |

Summit County manager’s budget recommendation hinges on property tax increase

New budget represents 9 percent hike

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher gave the Summit County Council on Wednesday its first glimpse of the proposed 2018 budget, which represents a 9 percent overall increase in spending and hinges on a property tax increase.

County Council members spent more than an hour discussing the county's expenditures and anticipated revenues for the coming year, as well as Fisher's preliminary recommendation of a $53.3 million operating budget.

"No matter what, we are going to balance a budget," he said. "This preserves service levels at a level people expect, plus it increases service levels in areas that our Council has been told by the citizens is important. If we don't go in the direction of increasing property taxes we will make the proper adjustments to balance the budget.

"We will not draw fund balances any lower," he added. "But, we will have to affect service levels to do that."

The budget proposal anticipates $53.3 million in expenses for the coming year, which is about a 9.5 percent increase over the 2017 adopted budget. Staff is counting on additional revenue from licenses and permitting, as well as $4.1 million in revenue from a proposed property tax increase, to help offset the spending hike. Staffers are recommending a $3 million and $1.1 million increase in the general and municipal services funds, respectively. The proposed increase — 27 percent — would amount to about a 5.5 to 7 percent hike on the average property tax bill for primary residents in the county.

"With the property tax increases, the Council will not have to make any hard choices about where to really cut the budget to bring it back to balance," Fisher said. "If we choose not to do anything about the revenue, we do have to make those choices."

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The budget is calling for one new full-time employee to staff the new County Services Building in Kamas. Expenses for public safety, which accounts for the lion's share of the budget, is also expected to increase by about $714,000 due to the merging of the Summit County Sheriff and Park City Police Department dispatch centers.

Other highlights from Fisher's recommendation include dedicating additional resources to sustainability, master planning for development of the Cline Dahle parcel and increasing services for mental health and substance abuse.

"Where we have been incredibly conservative, the council has a very aggressive strategic plan," he said. "There are things they really want to do. The places where we have done some increases are around affordable housing and environmental sustainability, as well as solidifying the funding around mental health and substance abuse services."

In order to account for the increases, adjustments were made in other areas of the budget. Fisher and staff are recommending reducing contributions to the Summit County Fair and youth recreation programs.

Funding for capital projects for 2018 was only briefly discussed, Fisher said, because the capital improvement budget is not complete. However, facility projects for 2018 will include completion of Phase 1 of construction of the new county fairgrounds and road improvements. Financing for the fairgrounds project is being recommended through Transient Room Tax funds, according to a county staff report.

"We are recommending about $4.4 million towards road pavement rehabilitation all over the county, which is a little bit of an increase from past years," he said.

The county is anticipating that half of the transportation sales tax revenues will be used for debt service payments for a $25 million bond to be issued in 2018. The bond would potentially be used to fund transportation projects such as a Jeremy Ranch interchange, park-and-ride lots for Quinn's Junction and the Ecker Hill view area, as well as an expansion of State Road 248 to allow for dedicated bus lanes, Fisher said.

The county's fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, and the Council plans to finalize budget details by Dec. 13. Department-by-department discussions about staffing needs and other budget issues will continue throughout October and November.

Public hearings are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6 and Dec. 13. The Council has until Dec. 31 to adopt the 2018 budget. Until then, the document will remain a work in progress, as the Council works with the various departments to finalize their allocations.

<i>For more information about the manager's budget recommendation, go to</i&gt;.