Thursday, May 9, 2013

City Council Work Session/Budget Discussion 5/8/13

Things of interest during the budget discussion at the city council work session:

The proposed budget includes a tax increase of $9.30 per month for a $197,000 home. 

Public safety trends and budget issues were reviewed. Specific budget data for law enforcement services was outlined. Increases were cited to include an additional $100K for traffic enforcement and funds for two additional officers, if a grant can be obtained. The grant would pay 75 percent of the cost for the officers for the first three years. UPD Chief Tracy Wyant gave statistics on the high call volume experienced in Taylorsville that has exceeded other precincts. He cited the $585K savings the city has seen through the change to UPD. All council members were in approval of the police budget as presented.

The Municipal Court budget was reviewed. One position was eliminated and another position has not been filled yet. There is an increase to the prosecution costs and employee benefits, but council members commented on how this is financially the best year the court has had in recent years. Two council members were interested in more information on the benefits package.

Fire and Emergency Services
UFA Battalion Chief Jay Ziolkowski discussed staffing issues for fire services and response times. Firefighters cannot go into a burning building unless there are three of them on site. This is a national standard that we cannot choose to deviate from. Council members discussed having a fifth person per shift so three can be on a ladder truck while two are on an ambulance. It would add an additional $400K, which has not been included in the proposed budget. All council members polled were fine with the fire budget as submitted.

After the November referendum on the Fire District, the council will need to revisit a potential bond for a new fire station. (They are waiting until after the vote because if citizens vote to join the Fire District, the city would not need to pay for that station - it would be included in the Fire District tax.)

Animal Services
The contract for Animal Services will not change this year. Taylorsville owns approximately 18 percent of the Taylorsville/WVC Animal Shelter with bond costs at $138,500. This bond obligation with WVC goes until 2024. Council members and staff are pleased that the shelter is quickly becoming a "no kill" shelter. The council could change providers for animal services, but it would come at a cost. All council members preliminarily agreed with this budget.

Irrigation Problem

The Murray canal break and the dried up North Jordan Canal has created some issues for us. We irrigate the Taylorsville Cemetery with that canal water and it will be out of use for at least two months. City officials are trying to decide if they should bring in water trucks ($1000 per week), or run a culinary water line to water the grass and trees in the cemetery. Running a line would cost approximately $10K-$20K, but is the recommended approach since we have no definite date that the canal will be in operation again. The council consensus was to approve $10K from the current budget in order to connect to the less-expensive line. Deseret News story on canal breach

Employee Benefits
Employee benefits were the next items of discussion. City administrator John Inch Morgan cited several options to reduce the increase to both the city and the employee insurance premiums - increase out-of-pocket maximums from $2,000 to $2,500; increase emergency room co-pays from $250 to $300; remove chiropractic benefits from the plan. There is no change to dental insurance. One council member asked if the 80/20 split should be changed to 70/30. Employee costs for a family at mid-level coverage is approximately $275 per month. Staff will bring back more information next week on the employee benefits.

Taylorsville opts to use contractors, where possible, to save money on benefits like retirement, health insurance, and other employee expenses. Benefits cost about 40 percent of salary (on average, $20,000-$30,000 per employee). Contractors, such as the city attorney, city engineer, communications director, and prosecutors provide their own equipment - computers, phones, vehicles, etc. They do not receive any employee benefits.

Budget Committee
The City Council has a Budget Committee made up of volunteers who live in the city. These volunteers are financial professionals - CPA's, CFO's, and business owners. Tonight the Budget Committee gave the recommendation to support the public safety portion of the budget. They are also interested on seeing more options on the employee benefits. Budget Committee member Cary Davis pointed out that residents need to understand that even though this is a 47 percent property tax increase, the actual budget is only increasing 4.2 percent, with the majority of that increase funding public safety.

Here are some of the additional items in this year's proposed budget:

      Keeping neighborhoods looking nice keeps crime down, encourages good families to live here, and improves quality of life and property values. Here are some of the additional items included in this year’s proposed budget to help neighborhood revitalization:
o   $160K for road maintenance that has been deferred over the years
o   $22K for additional neighborhood clean ups
o   $100K for sidewalk maintenance and repairs
o   $64K for an additional code enforcement officer (includes salary, benefits, and resources)
-       Our Unified Fire Authority contract increased $213K (5% over last year). Our Unified Police Department contract increased $232K (3% over last year). We still continue to see significant savings by contracting our public safety to these two entities, over providing our own services. Last year we anticipated $600K in savings by joining UPD. This year, we anticipate over $450K in savings. The city has applied for a grant to add two additional police officers. If approved, we must pay 25% of the cost, or $60K for these two additional police officers to serve the public.
-       The proposed budget also includes:
o   $70K to give the planning department the ability to accept electronic plans from businesses. We hope this effort to make our city more “business-friendly” will help with our economic development efforts.
o   $20K for an annual resident survey. Elected officials want a better way to find what you want from your city so we can better meet your needs.
o   $33K for additional maintenance at city parks and the bass fishing pond. (A recent algae problem has necessitated this for the pond.)
o   $99K for our municipal election this Fall. Four seats are up and each primary and general election has a cost. Because there was no election last year, this is a new addition to the budget.
o   $95K in health insurance, retirement benefits, and market adjustments for city employees. As with most employers, health insurance costs continue to go up.

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