This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Economic forecasts suggest Salt Lake County will have a little more money to work with than expected this year, so Mayor Ben McAdams gave the County Council his ideas recently on how best to use those additional funds.
His overall proposal involves hundreds of adjustments to line items in the county's nearly $1 billion budget. But a few tweaks are likely to be scrutinized closely by the council, which will go over the recommendations at its Tuesday work session.
Council adoption of a revised budget then is expected to take place after a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday at the County Government Center, 2001 S. State.
The two biggest elements of McAdams' proposed changes require the midyear addition of 18 employees: 11 for the jail and seven to bolster the county's handling of stormwater runoff so it can comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
Normally, personnel growth like that would spark animated discussions around the council table. But the discourse could be tempered this time by two factors:
• New jail staffers' salaries will be paid largely by the county's still-to-be-finalized share of $14 million the Legislature allocated in its Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
• There's probably nothing the county can do but beef up its stormwater-discharge operation after an EPA audit revealed that inadequate staffing for a county of this size had led to required inspections not being completed and paperwork problems.
While a number of people were doing pieces of the work, only four were focused on the stormwater system, said county Township Services Executive Director Patrick Leary. The EPA said nine were needed.
The extra workers will perform tasks such as inspecting each of the 180 pipes that drain into creeks running through unincorporated areas of the county, Leary said, and review discharges from large construction sites and chemically sensitive businesses.
Sheriff Jim Winder originally requested 15 full-time employees to implement the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, designed to keep inmates from coming back to jail after being released and to promote substance-abuse and mental-health treatment as alternatives to incarceration.
But county Chief Financial Officer Darrin Casper said the mayor decided to delay filling four of those positions until next year. Those who are hired will be involved in risk-and-need screening at the jail and in filling gaps in the treatment spectrum, such as dealing with homeless mentally ill women.
Although Councilwomen Aimee Winder Newton and Jenny Wilson expressed concern that state funding will be insufficient to cover the county's needs, they agreed with several colleagues who said this is the best approach to an ongoing problem.
"A lot of things and people have come together at the right time to make this work," Councilman Jim Bradley said. "If we do nothing, the financial and social costs to this community will be far greater than the investment we make now."
McAdams recommended a couple of other funding shifts that could stimulate some council chatter.
He proposes taking back $500,000 allocated to the county Parks and Recreation Department to program some tennis-court use at the University of Utah.
The relationship just didn't work out, Casper said, so the mayor would prefer to use the bulk of that money to design a Parks and Recreation operations center.
The remainder would be divided between a child care bus in Millcreek, repairs to two recreation centers Dimple Dell, which had some of its external shell blown off by a spring wind storm, and Northwest, to fix water lines and to make small contributions to the Utah Performing Arts Center board and the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.
Casper also noted that county agencies have saved about $350,000 this year on lower gasoline costs. He said the mayor believes the departments should be allowed to tap those funds for other projects rather than returning them to the general fund.
McAdams also wants to do away with the Community Access to Technology labs at four recreation centers and to transfer much of that funding to the new Midvale Senior Center.