This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mayor Ben McAdams proposed a $1.2 billion Salt Lake County budget for 2017 that avoids a tax increase while continuing the county's role in promoting criminal-justice reform and reducing homelessness.
His budget also sets aside $39 million for a midvalley performing arts center which McAdams announced will be in Taylorsville. It also expands a swimming program for autistic children, puts $200,000 into a cooperative economic-development effort with cities along the still-developing Mountain View Corridor, seeks to boost exports and prepares for changes coming to unincorporated areas on Jan. 1 when Millcreek City and five metro townships are created.
"This is a budget that responds to what the 1.1 million residents of Salt Lake County expect and deserve: a county government that is open, accountable and effective and delivers on public safety and responsible spending of taxpayer dollars," McAdams said Tuesday in his fourth budget speech to the County Council.
The council will pore over the budget in six weeks, aided by a new presentation format that council members praised as making it easier to pinpoint priorities.
At first glance, said Republican Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, the mayor's proposal indicates "good things are going on in the county. … I appreciate how the mayor has tried to be fiscally conservative and the budget has no tax-increase proposal."
She is going to take a close look at McAdams' plan for the second year of spending $9.4 million for criminal-justice reform, money coming from an expired tax for jail construction that McAdams persuaded the council to extend last year to try to cope with problems on the street and an "unfunded mandate" from the state to carry out some of the reforms.
McAdams says the county has seen a 209 percent jump in Class A misdemeanors crimes which send perpetrators to county jail or into other county programs instead of state prison. The result is an overcrowded jail and a monthslong wait for arrestees with behavioral-health issues to get treatment.
Newton said she wants to make sure all $9.4 million goes to the effort and that portions are not used for operations in the sheriff's and district attorney's offices.
As part of his criminal-justice initiative, McAdams is seeking $3.75 million this year to launch two "Pay for Success" programs, working with First Step House and The Road Home to address chronic homelessness.
He said the county has secured financial commitments from private sources or nonprofits to start programs providing treatment and housing for "high-risk, high-need individuals" who are most likely to be arrested multiple times or to cycle through homeless shelters, jail or the streets.
"We will rigorously evaluate both projects and use what we learn to improve other social-needs programs. We will drive funding toward high quality, effective programs that actually improve the lives of people in need," he said, adding taxpayers won't have to repay the donors' upfront money "if lower rates of recidivism and fewer numbers of homeless individuals are not achieved."
The mayor also pledged to ask the Legislature for funding that should be flowing to the county through Medicaid expansion, or at least Gov. Gary Herbert's "Healthy Utah" plan.
County departments and independently elected officials do not get much new money in the 2017 budget, which is projected to have just $6.8 million more revenue next year from property and sales taxes. That 2 percent increase will be eaten up primarily by a 3 percent pay hike for more than 3,000 county employees, including about 30 new full-time positions.
The mayor received a partial standing ovation at the end of his speech. A number of veteran employees remained seated, partly in protest of next year's elimination of the county's remaining 1.5 percent contribution to retirement plans. Three employee groups later told the council they oppose ending the retirement contribution.
The county is going through a two-year restructuring of the compensation plan, which is designed to make the current system that is loaded with benefits at the expense of pay more balanced and market-driven for most employees. But the change doesn't benefit everyone on the county payroll.
Overall, however, Democratic Councilman Jim Bradley called it a "thoughtful" budget that looks well positioned to maintain the county's stellar AAA bond rating, a distinction enjoyed by only 1.5 percent of local governments nationwide.
"I liked what I heard," Bradley said, contending the new budget format will make it easier for the public as well as the council to go online "and find things in the budget. It opens up a complicated process and makes it as useful and accessible to the citizens as possible."
Taylorsville Mayor Larry Johnson was ecstatic that his west-central valley city was selected over Murray in a lengthy process to pick a theater site. It will be built on the Taylorsville City Hall complex, near 5400 S. 2700 West.
"The location is great for people in a wide radius. A great part of the west side will be able to take advantage of it," Johnson said, citing good access from freeways and streets. "It will help our economy, too."
Assessor Kevin Jacobs, one of nine independently elected county officials, said his initial impression of the budget is that it was "fair, balanced and addresses the needs of Salt Lake County."