City council averts tax increase and employee furloughs while passing new budget
Jun 29, 2020 11:34AM
By Carl Fauver
The Taylorsville Arts Council saw its budget from the city restored, as the group still hopes to present a show in this new arts center before the end of 2020. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
Several months ago, a public opinion survey gave Taylorsville elected officials a mindboggling approval rating of nearly 90%. What the mayor and city council accomplished last month may only strengthened that number.
The council unanimously approved a $22,447,047 Taylorsville budget for fiscal year 2020–21, which is 8.4% lower than the previous year. However, in doing so, council members avoided both a property tax increase and employee furloughs. The new Taylorsville budget also covers an estimated $500,000 fee hike for Unified Police Department services.
“This is not a ‘bare bones’ budget, but we did have to make significant reductions,” said Mayor Kristie Overson. “We asked all department heads to look for places to reduce spending. Nobody was left without cuts.”
After the mayor and her staff put together a suggested budget, city council members made only two significant changes. First, they restored $100,000 that had been cut from their reserve to cover potential police overtime costs. Second, the council returned $10,000 to the Taylorsville Arts Council budget, where a cut from $15,000 to $5,000 was originally proposed by staff.
“It has been close to 10 years since we had a budget decrease,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Harrington said. “But because the economy is down, our tax revenues are down. And the UPD cost is expected to go up 4.78%, from $10.15 million to $10.63 million. Through conservative budgeting, we have been able to do this. We’ve done well to avoid a tax increase.”
“I am very supportive of this budget,” Council Vice Chairman Brad Christopherson said. “We froze projects; we delayed projects. Our administration has been fantastic in adjusting to coronavirus issues. They did not propose a tax increase to mitigate virus issues.”
Christopherson was also a strong advocate of the two restored budget cuts: police overtime and the arts council.
“In a $22.5 million budget, we can find $10,000 more for the arts council,” he said.
He was not alone in championing the city’s cadre of volunteer performers.
“When the [Taylorsville] Arts Council performs its first show in the new [Mid-Valley Performing] Arts Center, I don’t want it to be a road show,” Council Chairwoman Meredith Harker said. “The arts council needs to know we support them.”
Initially, Councilman Dan Armstrong was more hesitant.
“We may want to consider [returning the $10,000 to the arts council budget] later,” he said. “About 28%of Taylorsville families have someone out of work. I am afraid we may have to cut city payroll if we boost budgets.”
However, City Manager John Taylor also told council members any numbers agreed upon now could be subject to change in the months ahead.
“We think this will be a year when we will need to come back to discuss budget items multiple times,” he said. “For one thing, more revenues could become available through federal grants.”
City employee training budgets, particularly for out-of-state conferences, is one area where deeper cuts were made.
The May 20 council meeting , where the city budget was initially discussed at length, was the first official meeting held inside council chambers in more than two-and-a-half months. Immediately after the world began going into lockdown, the Taylorsville City Council cancelled its March 18 meeting. Four subsequent meetings (April 1, 15, 29 and May 6)—one of them a more informal “Let’s Talk Taylorsville” session—were all Zoom meetings.
“City council members chose not to wear masks (for that first meeting back in council chambers), but they sit pretty far apart,” Overson said. “I wore a mask; our recorder did and some others. It was a mixed bag. We also had one of our meeting presenters choose to do so over Zoom, which worked out fine.”
Unless there is a new spike in Utah coronavirus cases, city leaders plan to resume all of its twice-monthly meetings inside their city hall council chambers. People are encouraged to bring and wear masks if it makes them more comfortable. Social distancing will also be strongly encouraged.