Council’s budget will fund transit and housing expansion
For several years now, the Salt Lake City Council has identified transit and affordable housing as council priority items, but thanks to new revenue sources, the council will have the funds to pursue some of its housing and transit goals. On Tuesday, June 12 the council unanimously approved the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget that, in addition to housing and transit, will also increase services for park maintenance and public safety.
“We are committed to tackling bedrock issues with this budget,” said Erin Mendenhall, Council Chair. “The budget funds many needed services and projects, and it works in concert with a possible fall bond vote that would fund major repairs to our road system.”
The $301 million general fund budget is funded primarily by the city’s ongoing general revenue sources such as property and sales taxes. Additional and enhanced services will be funded by a 0.5 percent sales tax increase authorized by the State Legislature and passed by the Council in May.
The city anticipates the sales tax to generate $25 million in new revenue in the next fiscal year. Public transit, housing and neighborhood safety would receive the bulk of those new funds. The council has designated $5 million of the new funds to go to transit expansion, almost $6 million for public safety personnel and $4 million to go to funding affordable housing projects.
Council has identified a pilot rideshare program called, “Trips to Transit” and the expansion of bus routes on 900 South, 200 South, 2100 South, 600 North and 1000 North as high-priority transit projects that should be the first to be funded with the new revenue.
Even more money for transportation could become available if enough cities support a resolution to adopt a 0.25 percent local option general sales tax that would be dedicated to transit and transportation projects countywide. The council voted unanimously to support the resolution.
Under the terms set by the Salt Lake County Council, the tax increase will go into effect if municipalities representing 67 percent of the county’s population approve the resolution. With Salt Lake’s support, cities representing 56 percent of the county’s population have approved the resolution, but several cities like West Valley, West Jordan and Sandy have yet to formally vote.
If enacted, the new revenue would be dispersed under the terms originally established under the failed Proposition 1. Under the county’s terms, the county would collect all of the new revenue for the first nine months. After that, the county would retain just 20 percent of the new revenue with 40 percent going to local municipalities and 40 percent go to UTA.
The Council is requiring a new tool for accountability and transparency to track these funds in the form of a dashboard at http://fundingourfutureslc.com/critical-needs-dashboard/
A potential general obligation bond also is being considered to go on the ballot this fall to help fund street reconstruction.
The City’s budget is the operating budget for delivering services and includes the capital budget for major infrastructure projects. The Council also added money for system-wide park maintenance not originally in the Mayor’s budget proposal.
This year’s deliberations also ended with approved increases on public utility bills for wastewater treatment upgrades and other public utility improvements. City employees, including police and fire personnel, will receive a raise.
Council Members say public input on the budget has been valuable as residents have spoken at public hearings and sent in comments through email, phone calls, and social media. Three public hearings were held, starting in May after the Mayor made an initial budget recommendation to the Council.
At the formal meeting on June 12, the council adopted the budgets for the city overall, the Redevelopment Agency, the Local Building Authority, plus budgets for the Library, Airport and Public Utilities (stormwater, sewer and water, and street lighting services). The adopted 2018-19 Fiscal Year Budget in its entirety will be available online.
According to the city, a Truth in Taxation Hearing, a public hearing required by the state, will be held on August 14 at 7 p.m. and completes the annual budget process.