More than 100 public safety positions, including deputy sheriffs, firefighters and paramedics, are among 680 Salt Lake County jobs likely to be eliminated because of budget cuts, should tax limitation Initiative A pass.
Additionally, 120 positions at Valley Mental Health, which provides mental-health services for the county under contract, would also be eliminated.The Taylorsville fire station would close, as would county library branches in Draper and Alta, seven senior citizens centers and five rec-reation centers because of tax-revenue losses that voter approval of the initiative would cause.
Those potential impacts, including the layoff of 25 percent of the county's work force of 2,900, are according to budget projections released Thursday in a 12-page newsletter from county commissioners.
The county budget projections reflect the potential impact on county revenues of Initiative A - which would cap all property taxes, including those paid to counties, cities, school districts and special service districts, at 1 percent of fair market value, 0.75 percent for residential property.
The county's projections use as a basis State Tax Commission calculations that Salt Lake County would lose $39 million, or 40 percent, of its $99 million in property tax revenues, should Initiative A pass.
The effect would be an overall 17 percent reduction in the county's $231 million budget. But department budgets would not experience across-the-board cuts. Some departments and services would be hit by cuts deeper than 17 percent because they are funded primarily by property taxes.
Other county services would be unscathed by budget cuts because they are funded entirely without property tax revenue, and their funding sources - federal grants, direct service fees or contract revenues, for example - are not affected by any of three tax initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot.
But Howard Stephenson, executive director of the Utah Taxpayer Association, which drafted Initiative A, says the county projections are based on faulty Tax Commission information, and the cuts are not logical.
"It makes real good sense if you have a 17 percent budget cut to lay off 25 percent of your employees," Stephenson said. "It's just more of the scare tactics we'll be hearing for the next two months."
The commissioners' newsletter says most of the county's non-tax revenues, which comprise the bulk of the county's budget, have sharply restricted uses that would prevent commissioners from simply shifting them to other budget areas to compensate for lost property tax revenue.
Among the county services and departments projected to be hardest hit:
- Sheriff's Department: About $3.9 million would be cut from a total $26 million jail, patrol and investigations budget. About 105 positions, including deputies, jailers and civilian support personnel - 15 percent of the sheriff's employees - would be eliminated.
- Fire and paramedic divisions: $1.5 million would be cut from a total $13.6 million budgets. Taylorsville fire station and West Valley paramedic unit would be eliminated. Ten firefighter and paramedic positions would be eliminated by attrition. Emergency response time in some areas could increase by four to five minutes, said county Fire Chief Larry Hinman.
- City-County Health Department: More than $2 million of a $9.2 million budget would be lost. Health education, asbestos investigation and preventive health programs would be eliminated. Hazardous-waste inspections and free immunizations would be cut back.
- The Aging Services Division: $1.1 million of the division's $5 million budget would be lost. Seven of 14 senior centers would close their doors. Some 40,000 fewer meals would be served annually through senior center nutrition programs.
_ Libraries: More than $3 million would be cut from the $9.3 million budget. Library branches in Draper and Alta, where the lowest level of patron use occurs, would be closed and new construction curtailed. Branches remaining open would reduce operation hours and close Fridays.
Commissioners asked department managers to make the projected cuts by placing the highest priority on vital services, such as public safety, and those mandated by law, said Commission Chairman Bart Barker. Services categorized as administrative and contributing to quality of life took the deepest cuts.
(chart) Initiative A
Effect on county department budgets
Dept. Cut Effect
Sheriff $3.9 million 105 positions eliminated
Fire $1.1 million Taylorsville station closed
Paramedic $367,000 W.V. unit eliminated
Libraries $3 million Two branches closed
Aging services $1.1 million Seven senior centers closed