Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis pitched what he termed a "sobering" budget message to the City Council, proposing cuts of $2.1 million from the city's general fund budget and eliminating more than 20 city positions.
The mayor's proposed budget for the 1988-89 fiscal year budget will include no tax or fee increases. He's proposing an $80 million general fund budget, which is a 1.5 percent decrease from last year's budget.The reductions will come in cuts to city services including police and fire protection and no raises for city employees.
"While reductions are being made, we are making them carefully," DePaulis promised in a speech to the City Council Tuesday night.
And during his monthly news conference Wednesday, the mayor said his conservative budget doesn't contradict the state's forecast of an improving economy and promises of a tax rebate.
Specific cuts include $600,000 and 61/2 positions from the police department, and $350,000 and 10 positions from the fire department. The mayor also wants to save $94,000 by turning off 1,200 mid-block street lights on major city streets.
Police and fire department employees complained that the city's budget is again being balanced on their backs, with nearly half of the cuts coming from the public safety departments.
"I don't feel like I'm balancing the budget on anybody's back," DePaulis countered after delivering his speech. "Everybody's taking the hit. The biggest departments are police, fire and public works. That's the only place you can raise the big dollars."
The mayor's budget also includes a recommendation to consolidate two east-side fire stations, in order to build a more centrally located new station for $850,000, as proposed in a recent fire department management audit. DePaulis said the effort should be staged so that one station is closed while the new station is built.
Councilwoman Roselyn Kirk, who represents the east bench where the stations are located, said there would be "blood on the east side" over the fire station consolidation issue.
DePaulis emphasized that his budget continues the belt-tightening trend, due to the "bumpy road" of the city's current economic malaise.
"In order to close the gap between our service responsibilities and the lack of sales and franchise tax revenue to support them, for the past two years I have reluctantly asked our citizens to help in the form of property taxes and user fees. And they reluctantly did so.
"But I cannot in good conscience ask to raise taxes or fees this year," DePaulis said.
The City Council will adopt a city budget June 9. Budget deliberations have already sparked fireworks between the executive and legislative branches of city government, and more sparks are expected before the budget is adopted.
Police and firefighter unions are in negotiations with the city over their contracts. Police have threatened to stage an "informational picket," as the fire union did last year, if they don't receive a 10 percent salary raise.
Although he praised the city's dedicated work force, DePaulis said there is just no money for salaries.
Despite the dismal economy, DePaulis said the city can find some positive news in his 1988-89 budget.
"The majority of programs are being retained, and we're making substantial contributions again this year to our capital improvements proj-ects. In addition, we are making a commitment to the arts, which are vital to the life of our downtown, by assisting the Capitol Theatre, the Fine Arts facility and Symphony Hall."
DePaulis, speaking at his monthly news conference Wednesday morning, said his conservative budget isn't in contradiction to Gov. Norm Bangerter's promises of a tax rebate.
The city just received news of a modest increase in sales taxes over the Christmas quarter. The mayor said he has tracked tax revenues over the past two years, and he doesn't think an upward trend has been firmly established.
"I'm in the uneviable position of having to prepare a budget based on more than just one quarter. Everything we see at the state level may not have trickled down to us yet."