Summit County proposes its largest operating budget ever
$65.1 million reflects increased revenues, would add 10 positions
Summit County officials last week heard a proposal for the largest operating budget in the county’s history, a $65.1 million recommendation that County Manager Tom Fisher said maintains service levels as the county grapples with growth.
The council approved a larger budget for 2017, but it included millions in borrowed money used to build the Jeremy Ranch roundabouts.
This proposed budget is fueled by higher-than-anticipated tax revenues and it represents a 6% increase over the approved 2020 budget, which was voted upon three months before the pandemic hit.
Officials estimate the county’s revenues to increase in 2022 by $6 million, or 10.1%.
“Sales tax revenues have really bolstered our ability to keep things charging forward,” Summit County Finance Officer Matt Leavitt told the council.
The County Council is charged with approving a budget by the end of the calendar year and is required to solicit input from the public before it does so. At the end of 2019 — the last pre-pandemic budget process — Fisher recommended a $60.8 million operating budget, which increased to $61.4 million when it was passed. That budget was slashed in the early months of the pandemic to $54.2 million.
Earlier this year, Fisher approached the council with the idea of raising property taxes, which councilors directed him not to pursue. According to a staff report accompanying the budget proposal, councilors did not want a property tax increase to interfere with the chances of the county’s $50 million open space bond succeeding at the polls.
The report calls the bond the council’s top priority and says that pursuing both a tax increase and the open space bond could be “counterproductive.”
Utah’s tax laws do not allow governments to increase rates without soliciting input from taxpayers, which the county last did in 2017. Other county-controlled entities, however, like the Snyderville Basin Recreation District and the Mountain Regional Water Special Service District, have increased their impact on taxpayers in the meantime. The county has set a policy to consider an increase every four to five years.
Fisher said about 40-45% of the county’s operations have been supported by property taxes, which are seen as a more stable revenue source than sales taxes.
The budget includes increases in the contract for solid waste pickup; 10 added positions, including four in the Sheriff’s Office; and a tripling of the county’s lobbying budget.
Fisher said the budget reflects the growth of the community.
“If you’re looking at more building inspections, more planning applications and visitor growth and how we defend land-use regulations and traffic growth, the increase to cost of solid waste collections and the same thing that every employer is dealing with right now with labor costs, all of that combines to needing a larger operating budget to provide a basic level of services and to build services,” he said.
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