Summit County nears decision about taxes
Summit County’s annual budget is the “biggest policy statement” the County Council makes every year, according to County Manager Tom Fisher.
“The budget outlines where you expect to receive money and where you expend it for different programs throughout the year,” he said.
The property tax increase that Fisher and county staffers have suggested for the coming year is one of the most critical components of the recommended budget for 2018.
In October, Fisher presented County Council members with a more than $53 million operating budget, representing a 9 percent overall increase in spending and $4.1 million increase in revenue from the proposed property tax increase.
“Everything that was in that budget and how we tossed back and forth expenditures and revenues since that time has taken into consideration that 27 percent increase in revenue,” he said. “It is my goal and, I think it is the Council’s goal, to really try and keep that value.
“One of our reasons for going after $4.1 million in revenues is to build back fund balances,” he added. “I want to make sure the Council makes and contemplates decisions with that in mind.”
The county staff is counting on additional revenue from licenses and permitting, as well as the proposed property tax increase, to help offset the spending hike. Staffers are recommending $3 million and $1.1 million increases to the general and municipal services funds, respectively. The proposed increase of overall revenues — 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.
County Council members have spent the last several weeks combing through the requests of each department and balancing those needs against the Council’s commitment to the strategic goals it has identified, such as mental health and substance abuse issues.
Last week, Fisher strongly encouraged the County Council to particularly prioritize a financial contribution to mental health and substance abuse services. The Council adopted Summit County’s Mental Wellness Strategic Plan at the Nov. 15 meeting, which included budgetary requests.
“This is one of your strategic plan items so it is important,” Fisher said during the Nov. 15 meeting. “We are going to have to have those tough discussions about what gets funded and what doesn’t. I think you’ve heard me express that I would like to go a year without talking about raising revenue, but in the case of a service level that we haven’t provided before, we probably need to be talking about revenue beyond this.”
Some of the other outstanding issues the Council is working through include determining how to earmark roughly $100,000 for infrastructure improvements on the East Side and open space purchases throughout the county.
Additionally, the county is contemplating a bond regarding the transportation sales tax that was adopted in 2016. Fisher said it will be the first “real big push on infrastructure” since the sales tax was adopted.
The bond program, which will be in the capital plan for the 2018 budget, will include projects in the unincorporated parts of the county, as well as Park City and the other municipalities, such as the Jeremy Ranch interchange improvements, enhancements to the S.R. 248 corridor and development of park-and-ride lots.
The county’s fiscal year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, and the Council plans to finalize budget details by Dec. 13. Public hearings are scheduled for Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 at the Sheldon Richins Building and County Courthouse, respectively. The Council has until Dec. 31 to adopt the 2018 budget.
The Council will be hosting Truth in Taxation hearings as part of the budget hearings. Fisher said the budget and property tax increase have to be adopted together because the 2018 budget is dependent on the revenue component.
“It is really contemplated that these two hearings will be the public’s opportunity to have an influence on those numbers,” Fisher said. “We get a lot of civic participation here and we enjoy that. It helps us make better decision with the public’s funds that we are entrusted with and we encourage people to be involved.”
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