Health care for the poor, libraries, parks, road repairs and planning and zoning are among "luxuries" likely to disappear if voters approve two tax limitation initiatives this fall, Salt Lake County officials say.
In a dress rehearsal of what could happen during budget sessions in November, county commissioners met Monday to discuss what they might eliminate if the initiatives become law. The county would have to reduce its budget by about $29 million, according to the state Tax Commission.Commissioners held the two-hour exercise partly to publicize what voters will sacrifice if they support drastic tax cuts. They also were responding to the Utah Association of Counties, which had asked for estimates on the effect of the initiatives.
"The same people who yelled because we didn't finish the 13th East road project fast enough are the ones out there signing the (tax limitation) petitions," said Commissioner Dave Watson. "There would be no more road projects. That would be the first thing we would cut so we could save the paramedics."
He said one man approached him after signing a petition and asked when the county's Salt Palace arena would be expanded.
"Do you think a fairy godmother is going to come down and wave a magic wand and make more seats appear?" Watson said.
Commissioners had been reluctant to hold the session, fearful they would be seen as trying to scare voters. But Commission Chairman Bart Barker said it would be unfair not to let voters know what might happen.
"If we don't give them (voters) the information and just make the cuts later, then maybe they will feel a little bit violated or betrayed by their elected officials," Barker said.
Commissioners examined the budget and identified services the county does not have to supply. Other county programs are partially funded by the state and may be victims of state cuts, they said.
"This leaves a whole level of the indigent who get no health services," Commissioner Mike Stewart said. "Then there will be the loss of the quality-of-life stuff that brings people like American Express here. Ten years from now we'll say `What happened to economic development?' "
Watson said the county's image is suffering from scandals in other governments throughout the state.
"People believe that's the norm out there right now," he said. "Somebody's got to make them believe that we're not all fat."