Tooele County Commissioners spent several hours behind closed doors Tuesday reviewing the 2013 budget but made no decisions on how to further reduce expenses.
“We met and talked for a long time,” said Tooele County Commission Chairman Bruce Clegg. “We didn’t make it through all the departments, so everything is still on the table right now.”
He added the commissioners will meet again in a closed session next Tuesday and resume their examination of the budget.
The commissioners announced during their Feb. 19 meeting that they would reopen the 2013 budget and look for more savings to reduce a proposed 82 percent property tax increase. Commissioners are also concerned about impending federal sequestrations that could spell the end to $2.9 million in payment in lieu taxes (PILT) the county receives from the federal government. Possible reductions in other federal funding also worry the commissioners.
At the same meeting last week the commissioners announced a freeze on all discretionary expenses and directed all county departments to do their best to limit expenses to salaries, wages and utilities.
The county’s budget reduction efforts began last fall when commissioners slashed $3.1 mil lion from the 2012 budget. As a result of the cuts, 50 county employees were laid off, 28 had their employment status changed, and five were transferred to different departments.
The cuts also caused the county’s economic development department to be dissolved, bookmobile services were eliminated, the director of emergency management retired, and the entire emergency management department lost most of its staff. Those who remained were absorbed by the county health department. Furthermore, the Tooele County Engineer was laid off, his position eliminated, and the surveyor’s office gutted, leaving only the part-time elected county surveyor.
The sheriff’s department lost 22 employees, including the two-man hazmat team. In December, the commissioners approved a 2013 budget that included an 82 percent increase in property taxes to help cover revenue shortfalls. The tax increase is equivalent to an additional $88 on a $150,000 home.
By reopening the 2013 budget and making additional cuts, the commissioners hope to reduce the 82 percent property tax increase before tax notices are sent to citizens this summer, followed by Truth in Taxation hearings in August.
Whatever tax increase the commissioners finally ratify, it won’t be collected from property owners by the county until Nov. 30, 2013.