Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

October 19, 2021
Tooele County Council works on tentative 2022 budget

Tooele County’s 2022 tentative budget for all funds includes a less than 1% increase in expenses over the 2021 budget.

The County’s tentative budget was the subject of a two hour County Council special work session meeting on Oct. 12 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

As presented by Tooele County Auditor Alison McCoy, the county’s budget officer, the total proposed expenses for the 2022 budget for all county funds was $106,896,977 compared to a total of $106,845,930 for 2021.

The 2022 budget assumes a 2.6% cost of living increase and a 1% merit pay increase for county employees. 

The cost of living increase was the subject of discussion. Council member Scott Wardle suggested, given the rate of inflation in the last few months and projections for an increased rate of inflation in future months, that a 2.6% COLA may not be enough.

Council member Kendall Thomas said instead of a percent increase he would like to see what it would cost to give every employee a $1 an hour raise.

No decision was made on salary increases, the council requested information on the financial impact of their different proposals.

While expenses in the 2022 general fund budget are down 1% from the 2021 budget, the tentative budget calls for taking $7.1 million from the general fund balance, or reserves, to balance the budget for 2022. The 2021 budget called for using $9.1 million of the fund balance.

How much money to keep in general fund balance as areserve was also discussed.

Both the 2019 and 2020 independent audits found the county was out of compliance with a state law that limits the unassigned general fund balance to no more than 50% of the general fund’s expenditures.

In 2020 the county ended the year with an unassigned balance of $34.7 million, which was 92% of the general fund expenditures, according to the county’s 2020 audit report.

The County Council came to a consensus, without taking a formal vote, that 25% of the general fund expenses would be enough of a reserve in case of an economic downturn and to provide the county with sufficient cash flow between the peaks and valleys of revenue.

The proposed general fund budget included salary increases for the sheriff’s department deputies and dispatchers to keep their pay competitive with other Wasatch Front agencies. 

Jake Parkinson, Tooele County assessor, proposed a budget for his department that gives assessors a pay increase without increasing the department’s total expenditures for 2022.

Parkinson said he will continue to serve as the county’s commercial appraiser, instead of hiring a new person to replace himself. 

The cost savings of reducing staff will allow the county’s appraisers to get a raise, making their salary more comparable to other assessors in the area.

The American Rescue Plan Act fund is a new fund for federal and state revenue received for COVID-19 relief. 

The budget calls for $550,000 of ARPA funds to be spent on technology and another $1.2 million for a fiber project to bring fiber internet to county facilities. How to spend the $2 million balance has not been decided.

The debt service fund budget ballooned from $240,000 in 2021 to $911,800 in 2022, a 280% increase, because the County Council plans on paying off two bonds early, according to Alison McCoy, Tooele County auditor.

“The County Commission and now the County Council have a goal of bringing down the county’s debt,” she said.

The County’s independent auditors noted in their 2020 audit that at the close of 2020 the county’s long-term debt was $36 million, down 43% from the end of 2019.

The capital projects fund budget includes $2 million for the 33rd Parkway between Droubay Raid and state Route 36 — according to an agreement made with a developer by a previous county commission, $1.75 million for Stansbury Parkway, $1.5 million for Tom’s Lane, $1 million to finish South Mountain Road, $800,000 for the Rowley Road bridge replacement, $550,000 for the South Mountain Road railroad crossing, $400,000 for Terra Road, $400,000 to replace windows in the county building and HVAC in the jail, $100,000 for a master transportation plan and another $100,000 for an economic development plan website.

The county has had four enterprise funds, funds that are, by state code, supposed to be self-sufficient. 

Since it first opened in 1998, the County’s Deseret Peak Complex has been operating as an enterprise fund, although it has not been self-sufficient, according to McCoy. 

Enterprise funds may “borrow” from other funds, but that requires a plan to pay back the revenue borrowed, according to McCoy.

“The Deseret Peak Fund never really did that,” she said. “So the Council has decided to dissolve the enterprise fund and move the expense and income to the parks and recreation budget. While the County is still very interested in Deseret Peak growing its revenue and containing its costs, it will no longer be a separate enterprise fund.”

The County’s other enterprise funds are the solid waste fund, the Wendover Airport Fund and the property management fund.

The County assumed ownership of the Wendover Airport from Wendover, Utah in 1998 after a series of events left the city unable to pay the contractor that was working on extending the runway.

The airport has been self-sustaining, but due to COVID-19 the flights bringing people into Wendover for the casinos on the Nevada side have been cut back. 

The airport saw the sales of jet fuel, a primary source of operating revenue, decline from $2.4 million in 2019 to $518,000 in 2020. However, the airport’s retained earnings, or reserves, were used to supplement revenue to the tune of $518,000 in their 2020 budget. Another $592,713 of retained earnings are budgeted to balance the airport’s 2021 budget.

The airport’s retained earnings can’t be used for non-airport related expenses, but the airport fund does pay administrative fees to the county for services provided to the airport by the county.

The property management fund is related to the county’s 2018 purchase of the Clayton Tower Building on the southeast corner of Main and Vine Streets in Tooele City.

The purchase contract for Clayton Towers obligated the county to honor the current five-year leases with the Driving School, Curt Morris, and the Linares Law Office.

The county also owns the building where Mountain Land Physical Therapy is located.

Revenue collected from the occupants of these properties is put in the property management fund, which in turn pays for expenses related to the property, including building repair and maintenance.

The County Council will continue to hold weekly work session meetings to discuss the tentative budget for the next few weeks, before they approve the final 2022 budget in December.

 

Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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