Salt Lake County's economy is not picking up dramatically, but it is continuing to improve.
"We're doing all right on a year-to-date basis," county financial officer Lance Brown said Tuesday in updating the County Council on sales-tax receipts through the end of April, the latest month for which figures are available.
Through the first four months of 2012, he said, the county has taken in $42.6 million in sales taxes, a 7.9 percent jump from the $39.5 million collected in the same period a year earlier.
The year-to-date total, Brown noted, also corresponds almost exactly with what county financial analysts had predicted in December, when the council adopted the 2012 budget.
Local-option sales tax collections showed the biggest year-over-year leap almost 18 percent while 9 percent gains were registered in receipts of Zoo, Arts and Parks taxes and transient room taxes paid by visitors staying in hotels.
Taxes paid on food eaten at restaurants also rose 3.2 percent over the first four months of 2011.
The only lagging sales-tax category involves rental cars (down 2.9 percent), a dip Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw speculated was probably the result of poor wintertime snow conditions reducing the number of destination skiers needing vehicles to visit mountain resorts.
"That's very possible," Brown said.
One section of his report featured graphics showing the performance of all the sales-tax categories over the past 48 months.
"They look like crooked smiles to me," observed Council Chairman David Wilde.
"Smiles are good," interjected County Treasurer Wayne Cushing, since the lines' current upward trajectory indicates a positive trend.
"We want that [rise] to continue for the rest of the year," said Brown, pointing out that, while the economic climate has improved, sales-tax collections are not up to where they were before the Great Recession.
As evidence, he said that county option taxes had hit a 12-month high of almost $49 million before the crash, fell to a low of $41 million at the depths of the downturn but now are on track to reach almost $46 million this year.
Emigration to get cycling upgrade
For the rest of the summer, Emigration Canyon Road will be under construction to improve cycling safety by adding shoulders to keep rock slides out of bike lanes.
The $250,000 project will not require major traffic-control measures immediately, said Salt Lake County Public Works Director Patrick Leary, but there will be temporary delays and traffic redirection as work proceeds.
Crews will clear debris from roadside ditches, he added, and create catch basins to capture "gravel and soils that slide downhill from unstable uphill areas."
In a news release, Mayor Peter Corroon said, "Salt Lake County recognizes that Emigration Canyon is the 'crown jewel' for all transportation users, including professional bicycle riders and recreational riders."
Because the canyon has numerous residents, he said, county officials recognize the need to address debris issues on the road to provide safe transportation for all.
"The bicycle community is thrilled this project is getting off the ground," county Bicycle Advisory Committee Chairman Chad Mullins said in the release. "This is a great step toward improving cyclist safety and encouraging recreation in one of Salt Lake County's most beautiful and utilized canyons."