Salt Lake County employees poised to benefit from mayor's proposed budget

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013 6:10 p.m. MDT

Bill Spiva of Salt Lake County Aging Services helps Henry E. Ketcham into the van before driving him to an appointment in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Salt Lake County employees may enjoy a pay raise and retirement benefits they haven't seen since 2009.

Kathy Nelson, a training specialist for Salt Lake County Aging Services, cheered when asked how she felt about the proposed change.

"It's always nice to get your pay back," she said.

Bill Spiva, a driver for the county's Rides for Wellness, was not expecting a pay raise, given the loss of tax revenue from the landslide at Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine.

"It's been a long haul. I feel fortunate" to have a job, Spiva said. "Between now and then, you've just gotta hope that nothing disastrous comes along" to take away the proposed funding.

Under Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' proposed $870 million budget for 2014, county employees would have their retirement benefits restored and receive a 2.5 percent pay raise — firsts for county employees since county budget cuts in 2009.

Restoring retirement benefits would cost the county about $2 million, while the pay raises would total roughly $6.2 million.

"This is a lean budget that recognizes Salt Lake County residents want government to live within its means," McAdams said.

The budget does not include any tax or fee increases in the county, a relief for county residents who saw a 16.2 percent property tax increase in 2013.

The proposed budget changes are subject to County Council approval. An official vote will take place in December.

McAdams' budget also proposes 20 new full-time equivalent positions, though only one would be funded by the county. The other 19 would be funded by grants.

McAdams cut $28.7 million in budget requests from county department heads and said he has chosen to fund projects that will help the county "prepare for a tomorrow of our choosing."

Some of those proposed projects include two new community theaters in West Valley City and Cottonwood Heights; funding toward after-school programs in White City and Sandy; and the use of restricted regional development funds to create a countywide 911 system.

The mayor also proposed putting $800,000 toward connecting trails and bike routes throughout the county.

One of McAdams' proposals would take up only 0.04 percent of the proposed budget at a projected cost of $351,000, but would have the potential to ease the lives of county employees with dependents who are diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum disorder.

His budget would allow for health insurance that would cover up to $36,000 for dependent children from infants to age 9 with an autism spectrum disorder and $15,000 for children ages 10 to 18.

"I know families in my neighborhood who have a child with autism and the impact that has on their children," McAdams said.

In line with his stated initiative to use the budget to prepare for the future, McAdams said children with autism who are treated early "can go on and live functional lives."

If the measure passes, eligible employees would be able to receive coverage during the county's open enrollment between March and April.

For more information on the proposed budget, visit slco.org/mayor/finance/html/budget/budget.html.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

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