Tooele County Commissioners postponed approval of their $58 million 2014 budget until Dec. 17.
During a public hearing on the budget held at their Dec. 3 meeting, the commissioners were reminded by a citizen of their obligation to make the budget available for public review prior to approval.
“The resolution that was provided online for this meeting states that the proposed budget is to be made available to the public 10 days prior to approval,” said Josh Maher, a resident of South Rim. “It sounds like there has been some changes made even today, so I don’t know if it can be approved today. I think it is going to have to be delayed.”
The final draft of the budget that the commissioners were considering was produced just two hours before Tuesday nights’ commission meeting.
The commissioners went ahead and held the public hearing and then voted to postpone a vote on the budget until their Dec. 17 meeting.
“Postponing the vote will give us time to disseminate the requested information,” said Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst.
Tooele County Auditor Mike Jensen presented the most recent draft of the budget, which totals $58 million in expenses for all county funds. For comparison, county expenses for all funds in 2013 are expected to total $45 million.
Several big ticket items not funded by local taxes comprise a large part of the increase, including $6 million from a federal grant with matching funds paid by casinos in Wendover to extend the Wendover Airport runway.
The increase also includes $1.2 million for three major road projects that will be funded primarily by a settlement payment for the impact of the Oquirrh to Mona transmission line from Rocky Mountain Power, along with state mineral lease and other state funds.
Combining those increases with $2 million to repay internal loans to the Deseret Peak Complex fund, and $1.5 million to increase the fund balance, accounts for $11 million of the $13 million increase in total expenses.
The county general fund makes up $24 million of the $58 million, while $7 million of general fund revenue will be transferred to other funds, leaving $17 million for general fund expenses.
The remaining $34 million in expenses is split up among 12 other county funds (See adjoining table).
The general fund includes all county offices, human resources, courts, building maintenance, public safety, county roads, and parks and recreation.
The total general fund expenses are up $7 million from this year’s current budget. While general fund expenses show a $7 million increase from 2013, that does not mean the county is spending more money in the general fund.
For example, $2.2 million of the $7 million increase is due to a change in how the county is accounting for municipal services provided to unincorporated areas of the county.
Previously the Sheriff’s office expenses were split between the general fund and the municipal services fund.
In 2014 all of the Sheriff’s office expenses will be recorded as general fund expenses, resulting in a $2.2 million increase in the general fund line item for the Sheriff’s office. The general fund for 2014 also includes $2 million for the repayment of internal loans to Deseret Peak Complex, and $1.5 million to increase the general fund balance. These are new items that were not part of the 2013 budget, according to Jensen.
Line items in the general fund budget with significant increases include $270,000 to cover maintenance contracts for the information technology department that were previously paid by the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP).
Also, $220,000 for additional employee compensation; $191,500 in additional expenses for facilities management; a $200,000 increase in county jail expenses; $116,500 to cover retirement benefits; $117,000 to cash out accrued leave for employees that leave the county; and an additional $107,000 for wildland fire suppression.
Other funds with significant increases include the capital projects fund, which jumped from $15,000 in 2013 to $1.2 million in 2014 with the addition of the South Mountain, Mormon Trail, and Lakeview Road projects.
The Wendover airport fund also increased by 78 percent due to a $6 million runway extension project that is funded through a federal grant with matching money from casinos in Wendover, Nev. No general fund or taxpayer dollars are used by the airport, according to Jensen.
The 2014 budget represents a concerted effort to hold the line on expenses, according to Hurst.
“We have done more than tighten our belts,” he said. “We have made drastic cuts. We cut some services that most people enjoy.”