Building a new public safety building is a top priority for Tooele City, according to Mayor Debbie Winn and members of the city council.
An increase in the city’s property tax rate is being considered to raise money to build the facility on property the city owns behind City Hall, the mayor said.
“Tooele City hasn’t raised taxes in 36 years,” Winn said. “Building a police station is first on our priority list followed by a fire station.”
Police Chief Ron Kirby and Tooele Fire Department Chief Rick Harrison presented their budget proposals during a city council meeting on March 7. Kirby said during his presentation the 30-year-old police station building at 323 N. Main Street needs to be replaced.
Approximate cost to build a new police station is $7 million, according to the mayor. Another fire station would be located on 1000 North at a projected cost of $5 million.
The mayor said a truth-in-taxation hearing would be needed later this year if the city decides to increase its property tax rate.
City leaders have been working on the budget since January. The mayor and council hosted a town hall meeting on Feb. 28 and conducted a survey to gain input from the public on budget priorities.
“We’ve had overwhelming response from the community that we need more police officers and we need a new public safety building,” Winn said. She said the hiring of two new police officers is already part of the proposed budget.
An in-depth study of Tooele’s finances was conducted last year by Lewis Young Robertson & Burningham, Inc., the mayor said. The company offers consulting services designed to assist municipalities and other government entities, and has analyzed Tooele City’s finances for several years.
The recent study deals with the general fund and capital improvements only, and not enterprise funds like water, sewer, etc.
A document provided by the company shows that the historical revenue for the city’s general fund from 2012-17 has been lower than expenses. Projected revenues through 2039 show that the city would not be able to keep pace with general operating expenses if revenues remain the same. The mayor said the study shows a “structural imbalance” for the general fund.
She said the city has dipped into savings funds throughout the years and tried to cut costs to avoid raising taxes.
Winn said city employees have not seen cost-of-living wage increases for several years.
The study showed that the city has made attempts to correct the imbalance by not looking to raise revenues, but trying to make reductions in expenditures.
The city issued a sales tax bond to cover legal issues, and spread out other financial obligations by refinancing debt at lower interest rates or spread payments out over a longer periods of time, said Randy Sant, the city’s economic development consultant during an April 4 city council work meeting.
“Even with all this great work it is not getting us to where we need to be. We have to look at revenue. There’s no choice,” Sant said. “No one can accuse the city of not going in and cutting costs. The city has cut costs for a significant period of time.”
Basic services such as police and fire protection could suffer if revenues are not increased, according to the financial report.
Budget proposals for city parks, community development and public works were presented during city council meetings this year.
A final budget presentation on April 18 will cover a variety of departments including the library, recorder’s office, human resources, attorney’s office, finance department and administration.
The council has a May 2 deadline to adopt a tentative budget. A final hearing and adoption of the 2018-19 fiscal-year budget is scheduled for June 20.