Tooele County Commissioners got a first look at departmental budget requests for 2014 Tuesday, and announced they may seek a new tax that some taxpayers could see on their 2014 property tax bill.
County department heads took three hours to present their budget requests for the 2014 annual budget, and those requests exceed anticipated 2014 revenue by $3.5 million.
The new tax being considered by the commissioners is for municipal services and would be collected in 2014 to fund the 2015 budget, according to Commissioner Shawn Milne.
The state allows counties to levy a municipal services tax to help pay for road work, law enforcement, animal control, engineering and other city-related services the county provides in unincorporated areas.
In 2011 the commissioners tried to impose a municipal services tax that would have generated $400,000. But they dropped it after citizens decried the proposal during a public hearing.
This time, however, commissioners are looking to collect $1.5 million for the tax, or around an additional $62 per year on a house valued at $150,000 in unincorporated Tooele County.
“By the time we hold hearings and approve the tax, we won’t be able to collect it until December of 2014,” said Milne. “That will be too late to help out the 2014 budget, but we will need it for 2015.”
The municipal service district tax would only apply to property in unincorporated Tooele County, such as South Rim, Erda, Stansbury Park and Lake Point.
The county spent $7 million on municipal services in 2012. While some municipal services are paid through sales tax, gas taxes, fees, and permits, the 2012 municipal services budget used $1.2 million from the federal government’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
The county has regularly used PILT money to pay for municipal services in the past because expenses in the municipal services fund always exceeds revenue. PILT money comes to the county from the federal government and is unrestricted money.
The bulk of the recent $2.6 million tax hike is earmarked to start the repayment of internal loans from restricted funds.
The plan for 2014 is to use $2 million of the tax increase to repay the road fund and the transient room tax fund, leaving $600,000 the county could use to offset increases in expenses such as health insurance benefits or covering the hole of declining mitigation fees, according to Milne.
The 2014 budget proposals the commissioners heard Tuesday night from department heads totaled $21.4 million. But anticipated general fund revenue for 2014 is $17.7 million, Milne pointed out at the end of the presentations.
Initial budget requests from department heads usually total more than forecasted revenue. In October 2012 the combined initial budget requests for the 2013 general fund totaled $21.9 million. A month later the commissioners adopted a $20.1 million general operating fund budget for 2013.
This is the first year that the public has been able to see individual department budget requests and hear department heads make their pitch to commissioners.
Some department heads submitted pleas for more money in 2014 while others presented budgets that were for less than their 2013 budget.
Tooele County Recorder Jerry Houghton, who also oversees the geographic information systems division and the building services division, presented separate budgets for each division that totaled $917,000 for 2014.
That amount is 16 percent less than the $1.1 million total in the revised 2013 budget.
Tooele County Clerk Marilyn Gillette asked for an additional $30,701 to run the clerk’s office next year, which is an increase from $327,215 in 2013 to $357,916.
Gillette justified the increase citing an increased workload. The department acquired an additional 1,461 hours of work after reassignment of some duties following last year’s budget cuts.
The clerk’s office picked up handling the commissioners’ office phones; scheduling the county building; posting public meeting notices and preparing minutes for the Council of Governments, the West Erda Improvement District, and the county planning commission; handling the county’s mail, requests for proposals, and surplus property disposition.
“We’ve laid off our part-time staff. The full-time staff had their hours reduced from 40 to 36, and my deputy and myself each took a 5 percent reduction in pay,” said Gillette. “With the extra work, we would like to restore our hours and salaries to what they were before the budget cuts.”
Even with the $30,701 in additional expenses for 2014, the clerk’s office budget would still be $30,472 below 2012’s expenses.
The largest chunk of the general and municipal services budget is under the supervision of Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park.
Park oversees budgets for the sheriff’s office, dispatch, search and rescue, wildland fires, the county jail and animal control.
Park’s combined request for 2014 is $8.1 million compared to $7.3 million for the 2013 revised budget.
Increase in personnel costs for patrol, detectives, and jail, along with covering radio fees that were paid by the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program funds, are responsible for the increase in public safety budgets.
Parks and Recreation Director Mark McKendrick presented a budget proposal that included the reopening of the Deseret Peak Pool, a demolition derby, and opening the Benson Gristmill on Fridays and Saturdays.
After income for these events are accounted for, McKendrick expects the pool will lose $60,400; the derby would end up $32,000 in the red; and the county would have to pitch in $2,971 for the Benson Gristmill.
“We are working with a company that wants to help us find business sponsors that will cover the loss at the pool,” said McKendrick. “We have nothing firm lined up right now.”
Commissioners will continue to meet with department heads and the budget committee to develop a balanced budget, eventually eliminating $3.5 million in expenses before the final proposed budget is ready for public inspection.
A vote on the final budget will happen in a December commission meeting. Ten days prior to that meeting, the commissioners must make a copy of the proposed budget available for public review.