Salt Lake County will spend about $228 million to operate next year, a figure set by county commissioners Saturday in their final session of work on the county's 1989 tentative budget.

The new budget, which is scheduled for official adoption on Dec. 15, holds spending slightly below the $232 million 1988 budget and holds next year's county property tax rates and tax revenues at this year's levels.A public hearing on the 1989 budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 in the commission chambers of the county government center, 2001 S. State.

While the 1989 budget will not cut property tax rates - a possibility commissioners discussed earlier this week - commission chairman Bart Barker said next year's spending plan sticks to the commission's goal of holding the line on taxes over the next five years.

"We're in the second full year of our five-year budget planning process, and planning five years at a time has helped us stabilize tax rates over the long term," Barker said.

Looking at the next five years instead of only at the next single budget year has forced the county to make deep spending cuts early in the five-year cycle to avoid tax increases later, Barker said. The five-year plan has also allowed the county to set aside fund reserves in anticipation of future expenses. And with department heads aware of what commissioners are planning for the next five years, they are more likely to keep their spending requests down.

"Our people came in with tight budgets this time," Barker said. "We didn't have a lot of grief in making the cuts we needed. We're doing more with less."

But holding down spending and taxes has a tradeoff _ the level of county services will not increase. Most services will show no change in delivery levels next year, but some services will be cut and one or two will be increased.

County highway services will shrink next year because of spending cuts needed to balance the budget that pays for municipal services delivered to 285,000 residents of unincorporated Salt Lake County. However, the highway cuts will likely come in areas that the public will not notice, Barker said.

The sheriff's $9.8 million administration budget will be some $300,000 higher in real terms next year to reflect a commitment by the commission and the sheriff's office to step up the battle against illegal drugs.

Commissioners approved spending $200,000 next year on organization of a new productivity team that will analyze county operations to see where service levels can be increased, the quality of services improved and money saved.

Other major components of the 1989 budget include a 4 percent merit raise for most county employees as part of a $4 million wage-and-benefit package, and a $1 million appropriation to start work on a new 350-bed minimum security jail and provide space for 100 additional prisoners at the existing 540-bed jail.

To fund completion of the jail construction, commissioners will call a special bond election next year to seek voter approval of a $10 million general obligation bond issue _ and a tax increase needed to pay off the bonds.

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