Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
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December 8, 2016
County adopts budget with tax increases

Additional $779,465 in property tax revenue included 

Combined spending for all Tooele County government funds for 2017 will decline by 1.5 percent in 2017, according to the new 2017 Tooele County budget.

But Tooele County property taxpayers can anticipate an 8.67-percent increase in the portion of their 2017 property tax bill that goes to Tooele County to cover expenses for the county and the health department, and property owners in unincorporated areas of the county can expect their 2017 municipal services tax to jump by 9 percent.

The Tooele County Commission adopted the 2017 budget at their business meeting Tuesday night. They also passed resolutions setting the amount of increase in property tax revenue and estimated property tax rates at the same meeting.

The property tax rates are only an estimate at this time, according to Tooele County Commissioner Myron Bateman.

“We may come back in July and with the property values figured out decide we only need a 2-percent increase,” he said.

Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne voted against both property tax increases and the budget.

“As far as the property tax goes, I don’t think we have done a good job of getting out and making the case for the increase with the public,” he said. “Most of the public opposes the increase. Before we raise taxes, we need to do a better job of explaining what it is for.”

When it comes to the budget, Milne said he would expect during a time of economic growth to be adding to the fund balances to prepare for lean times.

The 2017 General Fund proposes adding just under $60,000 to its balance in 2017, compared to an expected increase of $779,465 in 2016.

The Municipal Services Fund budget uses nearly $15,000 of the fund balance to balance the 2017 budget.

Milne said he preferred more reduction in expenses to reach a General Fund balance contribution nearer to $250,000 in 2017.

Opening up the county budget mid-year when revenues fell short and cutting expenses and laying people off is firmly etched in his memory, Milne said.

“I would much rather take a look at revenue three or four months into the budget year and see that we have more revenue than estimated,” he added.

Total expenses for all county funds for 2017 was set at $62,424,559. Anticipated final expenses for all county funds in 2016 is expected to be $63,384,492. That’s a decrease for 2017 of $959,933 or 1.5 percent.

A hike in property taxes is needed to balance the budget because large drops in funds that do not rely on property tax revenue mask a $3.7 million increase in expenses in other funds.

Largely due to road projects — Midvalley Highway, Mormon Trail Road and Village Boulevard — completed in 2016, the road fund and capital project fund’s expenses for 2017 will drop by nearly $3.7 million.

But that doesn’t mean there is more money available for roads in 2017.

The Midvalley Highway project used around $2.5 million from a fund reserved by state law for new road projects.

The Mormon Trail Road repavement project used around $2 million from the Municipal Services Fund balance. The county will now need to repay the Municipal Services Fund by $450,000 over the next four years, according to Bateman.

In addition to decreases in capital and road funds, other funds that will see decreased expenses in 2017 compared to 2016 include: the Internal Service Fund  — a fund for sharing leased equipment — will see a $615,000 decrease, the solid waste department is expecting a $310,086 decrease, and the payment for bonds that built the new Tooele County Detention Center will be down by $23,134.

But other county funds, including the General Fund, Wendover Airport, municipal services, health department, Deseret Peak Complex, human services, aging and adult services, tourism tax, and debt service, will see a combined increase of $4.7 million in expenses.

Only $647,432 of that $4.7 million will come from property tax increases, according to the resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the county commission.

The balance of the revenue to cover increased expenses will come from other revenue streams, including increased sales tax revenue, fees and charges for services, and grants from state and federal governments.

The largest fund budget is for the General Fund. It includes the operation and maintenance costs of most county offices —  the county commission, clerk/auditor, treasurer, assessor, recorder/surveyor, sheriff and attorney — along with county courts, human resources, information technology, and building maintenance.

The General Fund also includes the detention center, emergency management, weed control, and parks and recreation.

The General Fund also disperses revenue from taxes and grants to other funds, such as human services, aging and adult services, debt service, capital projects, Deseret Peak Complex, roads, and the county’s municipal building authority, which is a state-authorized arrangement that pays the bonds for the county detention center.

The county will spend $27.2 million for General Fund expenses in 2017, according to the approved budget.

Major sources of revenue for the General Fund for 2017 include $5.5 million in property tax, a 9-percent increase over 2016.

The General Fund will also receive a $4.4 million transfer from the Municipal Services Fund to cover municipal service-type expenses, and administrative costs for those services, which is a 15-percent increase from 2016.

The county anticipates $3 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) from the federal government for 2017. That is approximately the same amount as 2016.

West Desert Mitigation fees, paid by EnergySolutions, are expected to be $3.4 million in 2017, down 5 percent from 2016.

Sales tax revenue collected for the General Fund for 2017 is expected to be $2.3 million, up 7 percent from 2016.

On the expense side of the budget, all employees will receive a 1.1-percent cost of living adjustment for 2017.

In addition, the Sheriff’s office received an additional $488,000 that will largely be used to adjust the sheriff and detention center’s salary schedules to keep experienced officers from leaving Tooele County for other jurisdictions that offer higher pay, according to Tooele County Sheriff Paul Wimmer.

The Municipal Services Fund, required by state law, covers city-like services provided exclusively to unincorporated areas of the county, such as law enforcement, road improvements, animal control, and building and planning services.

State law does not allow the county to put general tax revenue into the Municipal Services Fund.

Major revenue sources for the Municipal Services Fund in 2017 include: $2.2 million from sales tax, a 10 percent increase from 2016; $1.8 million from the municipal services property tax, a 9 percent increase; $850,000 from building permits, a 23-percent decrease; and $340,000 from PILT, a 24-percent decrease.

The 2017 budget will take almost $15,000 from the Municipal Services Fund to balance the 2017 budget. At the end 2016 the Municipal Services Fund balance is expected to increase by $618,552.

The capital projects budget for 2017 will drop from $3.4 million in 2016 to $1.1 million in 2017, a $2.3 million decrease.

Included in the $1.1 million is $500,000 to cover a previous agreement to pay for half the cost of a new road between Droubay Road and SR-36, $200,000 to match a grant to build a new children’s justice center, $61,000 to repave the parking lot at the county-owned former Mantes building north of the county office building, and $340,000 for other capital projects.

Part of other capital projects include mitigating and preventing hard water damage at the county detention center, according to Mark McKendrick, facilities management director.

The Wendover Airport budget for 2017 will increase by $731,097 to $6 million. Most of that increase will come from $495,455 in Federal Aviation Administration grants to pay for a terminal expansion, a runway sweeper, and excavation around runways to bring them up to FAA standards.

The Wendover Airport receives no revenue from the county’s General Fund. Its major sources of revenue is from the sale of fuel, aviation services and hangar fees.

However, the airport fund is budgeted to transfer $129,796 to the General Fund in 2017 to cover administrative expenses.

The health department budget for 2017 is $5.6 million — up $301,080 —  for a 5.7-percent increase.

Deseret Peak Complex’s budget will be $2.4 million for 2017, a 3.6 percent increase.

The human services budget, which is primarily a contract with Valley Behavioral Services paid by grants, is $2 million, essentially the same as 2016.

Aging and adult services will see a $14,000 increase to $1.9 million for 2017.

The tourism tax fund, which collects an additional sales tax from restaurants, motels and hotels, is expected to bring in an additional $239,000 in 2017 for a total of $1.1 million.

Tim Gillie

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim covers education, Tooele City government, business, real estate, politics and the state Legislature. He became a journalist after a long career as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America. Tim is a native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University.

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