For Grantsville City, it was darkest just before the dawn. Only months before Brent Marshall was sworn in as mayor, a drop in revenue had left the city with a $267,126 shortfall in its $3.5 million general operating fund budget. Then-mayor Byron Anderson had pitched a 50 percent tax increase that was roundly shot down by angry citizens, before Anderson himself was dumped by voters in a primary election. The city was teetering on the brink of its own fiscal cliff, and nobody was quite sure how they’d gotten there.
In the three years since Marshall assumed command, however, Grantsville City has undergone a transformation. The city has not only balanced its budget but also added $418,094 to its rainy-day fund in 2011 while adopting a tax rate lower than the state certified rate for the last two years. All this was accomplished without any tax increases, layoffs or cuts in services.
Putting Grantsville City’s financial house in order is only one of Marshall’s accomplishments during his first term in office. He’s also increased transparency, helped negotiate a settlement in the previously intractable Grantsville versus Tooele lawsuit, completed several capital improvement projects, and embarked on an aggressive annexation plan. In many ways, 2012 was the year when many of the seeds he planted upon taking office began to bear fruit. For these accomplishments, Marshall has been named the Tooele County Person of the Year by the Transcript-Bulletin.
Fixing Grantsville’s financial woes was part of Marshall’s campaign when he ran for mayor in 2009.
As a city council member in 2009, Marshall was part of a council that approved a budget that reduced expenses for 2009-10 instead of raising taxes. When he took office in January 2010 he continued to examine each department’s budget for ways to cut expenses.
“I met with every department and we looked at every budget and make some reductions,” said Marshall. “We just didn’t buy things we didn’t really need. We didn’t layoff staff, but there were no pay raises and some benefits were reduced.”
Each year Marshall has been mayor he has combed through every budget looking for possible reductions. He has also reviewed every contract the city has looking for savings on items like phone bills and health insurance. For the last two years, Grantsville City has adopted a budget with a tax rate lower than the certified rate, amounting to a total tax reduction of 27 percent over two years, according to Marshall.
While lowering taxes, Marshall has also been able to complete several long-need capital projects. A new $1.8 million library, built with funds from the out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit with Tooele City, will be completed in the next few weeks.
An agreement with the Tooele County School District allowed the city to move the library out of city hall temporarily to Grantsville High School. The agreement also made it possible to remodel city hall, making offices for the new full-time mayor, city attorney and finance director and eliminating portable office space the city was leasing.
Grantsville City has also completed two new parks, the East Side Park and the Old Lincoln Highway Park. The city completed design work on a sewer upgrade, expanded its cemetery using property already owned by the city across Clark Street from the cemetery and north of the historic J. Reuben Clark Farm, and re-paved several roads in the city.
Marshall also made good on a pledge to improve Grantsville City’s transparency. In 2011, Grantsville’s website received a “D-” rating from Sunshine Review, an Alexandria,Va.-based non-profit organization that monitors and rates government websites for transparency. Upon learning of Grantsville’s low grade, Marshall contacted Sunshine Review directly to find out what improvements they recommended to the city’s website.
As a result, the Grantsville City website now lists individual contact information for council members as well as identifying the Grantsville City recorder as the city’s information officer and the person responsible for handling requests for records filed under the state’s Government Records Access and Management Act. The site also now contains a new tab with financial information such as property and sales tax rates levied by Grantsville City, audit and budget reports, and city contracts for the past and current year.
In February 2012, Sunshine Review updated their rating of Grantsville website to a “B-.” Granstville’s website rating is the highest rating of Tooele County public entities rated by Sunshine Review. Tooele County is rated with a “D” and Tooele City’s rating is a “C-.”
Marshall is the first Grantsville mayor to write a monthly letter to residents that is mailed out with the city’s water bills.
Marshall also delivered the first State of the City address for Grantsville in February 2012. In his address, Marshall detailed past accomplishments and laid out goals for the upcoming year.
In April 2012, when a technology snafu caused a work session of the city council where the budget for the new fiscal year was being discussed to not receive proper legal public notice, Marshall apologized for the error and took steps to make sure future council work sessions would have the legally required public notice.
“Transparency is important to me because I would like people to develop trust in their local government,” said Marshall. “We have nothing to hide, every decision we on day-to-day basis is not made for me, but for the citizens of Grantsville.”
Marshall has also worked with the Grantsville City Council to develop an aggressive annexation plan that includes space for Grantsville City to incorporate a business park to increase its tax base.
In June 2010, Grantsville City approved a 10-year annexation plan that would triple the size of Grantsville’s 17.9-square-mile boundary area. In 2011, Grantsville City annexed 7,900 acres on the northwest corner of the city limits. The annexed land includes area zoned for commercial growth. The city now has an industrial park on the city’s west side with appropriate zoning for warehousing, and light and heavy industry.
Marshall is currently working with four prospective businesses that are considering the Grantsville west side industrial area as a potential location. On the east side of town the city has zoned property for future retail development.
“Grantsville City now has a vision,” said Marshall. “We have lots of opportunity for growth of new businesses that want to relocate to Grantsville to get out of the congestion along the Wasatch Front and take advantage of our proximity to major transportation corridors like rail and I-80.”
With all the progress the city has made, Marshall said he still has work to do.
“We need to get the sewer upgrade completed and the water line to the east side of town,” said Marshall. “This is essential to provide the infrastructure so the eat side can grow.”
Marshall said he’s been too busy to really consider a re-election bid when his term comes up next fall. “I’ve thought about it a little,” he said. “But I have to talk it over with my family first.”