County manager suggests 7 percent increase for county budget
In his first budget recommendation as Summit County manager, Tom Fisher is suggesting a 7 percent increase for the county’s overall operating budget for FY 2016.
Wednesday, Fisher unveiled his recommendation of a $61.3 million budget to the Summit County Council. It was council members’ first opportunity to review the upcoming fiscal year’s expenditures and fund balances.
Of the total budget, $14.2 million is being allocated for capital projects. However, $4.5 million is carried over from the 2015 budget because of projects that weren’t completed, such as the Kamas Service Building, the development of new fairgrounds and renovations to the Summit County Animal Control Shelter.
Excluding capital projects, the preliminary operating budget, $47.1 million, represents a .6 percent or about a $300,000 decrease from last year’s $47.4 million. Part of the decrease is attributed to the long-term debt retirement of two bonds: the excise road tax bond that paid for Brown’s Canyon Road and a 1998 general obligation bond that paid for the construction of the county’s correction facilities on Justice Center Road.
The biggest increase in the budget is on the capital side, Fisher said, adding that officials are placing more emphasis on road and facility projects.
"Through the recession there was a drawback of money going into capital, which you then start to get into deferred maintenance situations," Fisher said. "But we are starting to show that we can catch up on that."
Fisher suggests allocating $5.2 million for construction of the Kamas Service Building, $2.4 for the development of new county fair grounds and $2 million for a solar initiative.
- The 2016 capital road projects could include:
- $1.7 million for road construction and overlay in the Silver Creek area
- $806,000 for reconstruction and interchange work at Jeremy Ranch
- $950,000 for road construction and overlay at Parkview
- $817,000 for countywide construction and expansion
For the upcoming year, six new full-time county employees are being proposed, including a Sheriff’s administration lieutenant, corrections road crew deputy, public works administration assistant, facilities secretary, environmental health administrator and a storm water coordinator. If the manager’s proposed budget is adopted, that would bring the county’s staff to 300 full-time employees.
The county’s staff level isn’t necessarily an indication of the financial health of the county, Fisher said, adding that he uses the fund balances as a measure. Last year, former county manager Bob Jasper established fund balance levels that county staff would target and attempt to stay within.
"The budget we adopted for 2015 projected those down at the bottom of our tolerance levels, so we have projected for 2016 that we will be at or above our tolerance levels, which is the biggest indicator for me that things are healthy we are not just out there expending every resource we have," Fisher said.
The county manager’s recommendation is based on discussions with the county’s budget committee, which includes several staff members. Over the next several weeks, the County Council will be receiving the detailed line-item budgets for each department.
Two public hearings will be scheduled in early December, with adoption slated for mid-December.
"The main thing I like to project to the public about budget is that the dollars that are being expended is the biggest policy statement the council makes each year, over any ordinance or development agreement, and it’s important we get it right," Fisher said.
Matt Leavitt, Summit County accountant, was hesitant to comment on the budget because he said as the process continues, the numbers could fluctuate.
"My overall feeling is that I’m usually pretty leery about the budget until we are getting closer to wrapping it up," Leavitt said. "I am trying to be cautiously optimistic about where we are going and the direction the county is going in. When you are throwing out some revenue projections I like to be a little more conservative. As the process nears completion, I usually feel a little better about our revenue projections."
For more information about the manager’s budget recommendation, go to http://summitcounty.org/.
A former Summit County victim advocate who was facing a felony count of misusing public money pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge in a deal with prosecutors.