Tax hike not necessary in ’08 | ParkRecord.com

Tax hike not necessary in ’08

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The Summit County Commission approved a balanced budget Dec. 19 without having to raise property taxes next year.

Operating the county in 2008, including the general fund, health fund, debt service and capital expenditures, will cost more than $51 million.

But despite major cost increases for building projects, garbage disposal and mass transit, the county will not increase property taxes next year, Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier explained at a public hearing last Wednesday in Coalville.

"The county continues to rely on growth to fund increases," Frazier said. "This includes not only increased property tax from that growth, but growth in sales tax, fees and assessments."

Bus service the county provides in the Snyderville Basin will grow next year with more shelters at stops and a new garage to store buses that are not in use, Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan said.

"We’ve got money in the budget to expand transit facilities in the county," Callahan said in a telephone interview.

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Helping to drive increased costs for the disposal of solid waste are new household hazardous waste and recycling facilities planned at Three Mile Canyon landfill near Wanship, he said.

"We’re going to have all these different bins and we’re going to ask people to sort their material out, rather than just throw it on the ground where it all gets buried," Callahan said.

Callahan expects the total budget for public works to increase more than 29 percent next year.

More than $8 million is earmarked for capital projects including the realignment of Landmark Drive at Kimball Junction.

Driving an 11 percent increase to the budget are capital projects that account for more than half the increase next year, Frazier said, praising the work of county employees for the "modest increase in the operating budget."

"Department expenditure increases and county revenue increases can be tied to growth that the county continues to experience," according to Frazier. "The increase in the capital budget will be funded with fund balance and will not require a bond or a tax increase."

The budget approved Wednesday includes 3 percent cost-of-living and 2 percent merit pay increases for county employees, according to Frazier.

He expects the county to hire about 10 new full-time and 13 seasonal employees next year.

Meanwhile, the cost for holding elections is expected to increase more than 300 percent in 2008 because of several elections slated in Summit County.

The first political contest is the presidential primary race scheduled in Utah Feb. 5, Summit County Clerk Kent Jones said.

Next year voters will also choose five people to serve on the new Summit County Council, Jones said.

Among other departments that will see the highest budget increases next year are planning and zoning, the Summit County Assessor’s Office, the County Attorney’s Office and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

The majority of people who voted last year supported a ballot referendum to change the current three-member Summit County Commission to a five-person board with an appointed county manager.

But the spending plan approved last week doesn’t mention the costs county officials expect to incur transitioning to the new form of government, which include new salaries for a professional manager and five councilors.

Other notable budget increases next year include:

— Personnel costs: 69 percent

— Community Development Department: 40 percent

— Courtroom security costs: 45 percent

— Search-and-rescue costs: 118 percent

— Solid-waste disposal: 43 percent