The modest property-tax increase planned for Salt Lake County residents has vanished in a frenzy of last-minute cuts, with two Republicans saying they don't want to leave office on a sour note.
But some elected officials warned the cuts may have been unwise, with County Attorney Dave Yocom saying the opening of the county's new jail now may be delayed.And the one Republican commissioner who will remain in office, Mike Stewart, said county taxpayers probably will face a large tax increase next year or the year after to compensate for not having a modest increase this year.
"We've shoved into the future a piece of action that should have been taken last year and this year," he said. Voters approved a bond for the jail in 1989 with the understanding that property taxes would be raised to cover the costs. But commissioners now have refused to raise taxes for that purpose for two years.
"If I were the sheriff, I'd want to make darn sure the jail opened on time," Stewart said. "I think we face some risk there."
The jail, being built on what is known as the Oxbow site, near 3300 South and 1100 West, is scheduled for completion Nov. 1. The sheriff wants to begin sending misdemeanor offenders to the facility on Dec. 1. The jail will relieve overcrowding that at times has forced deputies to release minor offenders early.
Commissioners Bart Barker and Tom Shimizu, both defeated by Democrats in last month's general election, led the charge Wednesday afternoon after seemingly having agreed earlier to a tax hike that would have cost the average homeowner about $6.11 more per year.
Among other things, they slashed budgets in the county attorney's office, the jail and the county's mental-health agency.
Barker said he didn't feel comfortable with the tax hike and spent much of Tuesday night trying to figure a way to avoid it. For one thing, he said, the county is projected to have more than $23 million in reserve by the end of 1991. "Why, in the face of healthy reserves and well-funded budgets, should we impose a tax increase on taxpayers who are entering a recession?" he said, dismissing the fact voters had approved the increase. "Not many people voted, and those who did probably don't remember having done it. My overriding goal was to not raise taxes."
County employees are sure to feel the brunt of the cuts. Commissioners said they anticipate several layoffs, although they did not estimate how many. Those who remain will benefit from raises. Commissioners approved a 3.5 percent across-the-board raise and set aside money for additional merit raises and incentives.
The county also agreed to fund other popular projects, including an elevated walkway over 4700 South to help students avoid traffic while walking to Truman Elementary School, and a public swimming pool in Magna.
Residents lobbied commissioners for the skywalk after a child was killed by a car in front of the school, 4639 S. 3200 West. Residents and the Granite School District also will fund part of the walkway.
Budget cuts - and pay raise
Current proposals for Salt Lake County's 1991 budget:
- No property-tax increase. Earlier proposals called for an increase of $6.11 a year to the owner of an average home.
- Smaller budgets for the county attorney's office, jail and mental-health agency.
- 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for county employees.
- Partial funding for an elevated walkway over 4700 South to Truman Elementary School in West Valley City.
- A public swimming pool in Magna.