County encourages attendance at budget hearings
Summit County residents will have two chances to provide comment on the proposed 2014 budget, with public hearings set for Dec. 11 and 18, both on a Wednesday. Next year’s budget, says County Manager Bob Jasper, is all about restoring services to residents.
"We set out in this budget to bring our roads back up to snuff," Jasper said. "There’s a lot of money [in this budget] for doing that."
With over $770,000 in road projects deferred in 2013 due to a citizens’ tax petition, many roads did not receive the repairs needed to prevent future increased costs. The budget for 2014 is primed to play catch-up on two years’ and $5.5 million worth of road projects, according to Jasper.
The county has also budgeted in a new snowplow operator, since Jasper said the county has more roads to plow and tries to stick to its goal of having all major roads plowed by 8 a.m. County Senior Finance Officer Matt Leavitt said they have also decided to add an additional engineer and a building inspector, the latter to keep up with an overall push for growth in the county.
Overall, six staff positions are being added for 2014, which Jasper said is just helping to get service levels back up to where they were previously. For 2013, the county cut 22 positions from its budget. Adding positions like a building inspector and an expert consultant to help rewrite the development code are necessary steps to respond to growth, Jasper thinks.
"One of the things that has become clear to me is that we’re seeing more people showing up at Planning and Building," Jasper said. "There will be pressure on us in terms of growth again we have an obligation to respond to that."
Jasper added the county has already been addressing growth by going through the process of updating its General Plan to say where the county would and would not like future development. He said a good amount of growth is slated for the Wasatch County side of Deer Valley Resort and Summit County needs to think of transportation solutions in anticipation of that growth.
Instituting alternate transportation systems other than simply widening highways will be important, Jasper said, as will the introduction of sewer into certain locations, which he says is a great tool "for directing and managing growth."
The county is already working with the Salt Lake Valley to address transportation issues through the Wasatch Summit, and Jasper has also reached out to Wasatch County to talk about having better collaboration on transit issues such as bus lines.
The 2014 operating budget totals $50.8 million, a 12.2 percent increase over 2013. Leavitt said that, although that may seem like a hefty increase, what needs to be understood is that the majority of that increase includes capital projects that had been delayed. He encouraged members of the public to come to the hearing.
"I encourage the public to take time to attend the public hearing so they can learn more about the budget process, and to let the public know that we worked hard to develop a balanced budget and a budget that benefits the community and the county as a whole and provides the services that the citizens need," Leavitt said.
Other notable budget items include $1.9 million for the construction of a roundabout at the Silver Creek exit of U.S. 40, a $1.4 million increase in a municipal fund property tax increase that was rebudgeted from 2013 and $1 million to remodel the Summit County Justice Center and add a new courtroom.
"This budget is built around facilities and roads and bringing back service levels," Jasper said. "We’re seeing a bit of an increase in our revenues and we’re focusing on investing that and [having] well-managed growth."
Budget hearings are set for Dec. 11 and 18. For more information and to view the proposed 2014 budget, visit summitcounty.org.
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