Defeat of the three tax initiatives Nov. 8 was good news to local government, and it was gratifying that voters took time to examine the effects the proposals would have on government, said Michael B. Zuhl, chief of staff to Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
The current city budget is the same as two years ago, and because the revenue base has been eroded, city officials face a big challenge to provide basic services, Zuhl told those attending the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Utah session Friday."We certainly haven't been on a spending spree," Zuhl said, adding that the budget hasn't been increased, though the city must provide services for thousands of commuters who don't pay taxes to the city but spend their weekdays working there.
Hurting the city's revenue most was the 1986 loss of $4.5 million in federal revenue sharing, a 1983 legislative decision to keep some sales tax money for flood-related expenses and a less than robust economy.
Centering his comments on downtown vitality, Zuhl said a recent Regional Urban Design Assistance Team study outlined in general some things that could be done to help the downtown area.
He said it was suggested the south end of downtown become a government center that could tie in with restoration of the City-County Building. He said it has been proposed a court building could be constructed in the area that would create plenty of foot traffic to offset the attraction of the two malls and LDS Church facilities on the north end.
Regarding Salt Lake City's renewed attempt to host the 1998 Winter Olympics, Zuhl said the U.S. Olympic Committee has reopened the site selection process after Anchorage, Alaska's, bid was rejected by the International Olympic Committee. That means Salt Lake City will be competing against several other sites.
Zuhl believes the state not only will benefit from hosting the Olympics, but can continue to benefit by hosting athletic events for many years. He said if facilities for winter athletic events were in place, Salt Lake City could become the Olympic training center of the West because of its ideal location.
In looking at hosting the Olympics, Zuhl said the economics and the environment must be considered and that nobody wants to put a burden on Utah taxpayers. Zuhl believes there will be a referendum to determine if the people of Salt Lake City want to host the Olympics.
Another speaker was Kerry Steadman, associate director of administrative services for Salt Lake County, who said the county is facing several major problems, including development of a Canyon Master Plan, transportation, taxation and providing cultural and recreation facilities.
Steadman said even though the three tax initiatives failed, "they will be back in one form or another." Steadman believes county officials have acted prudently in trying to provide necessary services and keeping taxation to a minimum.