Tooele County Commissioners approved a 2014 budget Tuesday that increases total expenses to $58 million next year, a $13.5 million or 30 percent increase over 2013’s budget.
The majority of the budget increases are due to one-time federal grant money and fulfilling commitments to repay internal loans to the Deseret Peak Complex fund.
However, general government expenses, which include elected officials offices, courts, building maintenance, human resources, and information technology, will remain near 2013 spending levels.
Public comments on the budget at Tuesday night’s commission meeting centered on a proposed municipal services tax for property owners in unincorporated areas of the county.
Bill Hogan of South Rim, complained that the majority of municipal services are provided to Stansbury Park.
“You are enabling Stansbury Park to continue to be a county entity by increasing the taxes because that is where all the money is going to end up,” he said. “If we were to get rid of them, then we wouldn’t need all that money in municipal services.”
He added, “If I was going to get some benefits, I wouldn’t mind paying my fair share. They are like a drug addict down there. You are enabling them as long as you keep raising taxes.”
Tooele resident Wayne Anderton praised the commissioners for the proposed new tax that will only be paid for by property owners in unincorporated areas.
“I am charged a municipal services tax in Tooele City to pay for the services they provide to me,” he said. “As you look around the county at South Rim and Stansbury Park, the amount of gas tax they bring in does not cover the road maintenance in these areas. I applaud the county for this tax increase.”
The 2014 budget the commissioners passed included $1.5 million in revenue from the municipal services tax. However, the county will have an outside firm conduct a study to determine the county’s actual cost for providing municipal services.
The actual rate for the new tax will be set next June after the study is completed, but commissioners have capped the revenue from the tax for 2014 at $1.5 million, or approximately $62 per year on a house valued at $150,000.
Other increases to the 2014 county budget include several big ticket projects.
One such project is $5 million for extending the runway at Wendover Airport, paid for by a federal grant and matching funds from Nevada casinos; $2 million to pay back internal loans to Deseret Peak Complex operations; $1.5 million to be added to the general fund balance to build the county’s reserve funds; a $3.2 million transfer of funds from municipal services fund to the general fund to cover city-like services in unincorporated areas; and $1.2 million in road projects funded primarily by Rocky Mountain Power.
The new budget also puts Tooele County back in the economic development business with $35,000 from the general fund and $118,000 from the municipal service fund to pay for efforts to bring more business to the county.
Other expense increases for 2014 include $280,000 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 $300,000 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.