SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski presented her fourth and final budget proposal Tuesday night, calling it the "culmination of the work" city leaders have done together as she heads into the final months of her time in office.
"As my last budget as your mayor, I am proud to say that the fiscal year 2020 budget firmly establishes the commitments we have made to this community and creates a path for future mayors and councils to build from," Biskupski said.
Biskupski's $330 million budget prioritizes housing, transit, parks and roads — but also police, who, after urging city leaders for years to raise their pay, will get a notable salary hike this year if the City Council approves Biskupski's proposal.
In addition to $34.5 million in new revenue thanks to the sales tax hike the City Council approved last year for police, housing, streets and transit, Biskupski's plan also includes an overall growth in revenue of $28.7 million from property and sales tax collection, as well as the Salt Lake County-approved transportation sales tax last year, according to the mayor's office.
To mark the first full year of collection from last year's sales tax hike, the mayor recommended prioritizing nearly $7.7 million of that new money to transit, $5.1 million toward affordable housing, $5.4 million for streets and $12.5 million for law enforcement.
Biskupski proclaimed that with this new revenue, Salt Lake City for the "first time in five years" avoided using one-time money to pay for ongoing costs, a problem she first aimed to tackle in her 2017 budget proposal.
To celebrate, Biskupski said she's "once again prioritizing the employees, our experts who keep this city thriving."
For all nonunion employees, Biskupski proposed a 2 percent overall salary increase. For union-represented police, Biskupski also recommended a 2 percent raise for officers who are not scheduled to receive a step increase negotiated as part of their overall contract.
But city leaders will still need to work toward their goal to add 50 more officers to the police department with the new sales tax dollars. To do that, Biskupski said, "we must continue to make appropriate adjustments" to ensure the department remains competitive with other agencies.
So Biskupski recommended using a portion of the new sales tax revenue allocated to the police department last year to increase the starting wage for officers by 2 percent, as well as a new 6 percent step-increase for officers at their 12-year mark.
The salary package proposal comes after negotiations with the Salt Lake Police Association, which voted on and accepted the package last week, the mayor said.
"This change will help even out the lifetime compensation we offer our police officers, to fully reflect the full 20- to 25-year career path of these public servants who protect our city," Biskupski said.
For the fire department, the mayor proposed $16,000 in one-time salary bonuses requested by fire officials as an incentive for firefighters to attend paramedic school.
Overall, the mayor's proposed city employee salary increases would cost the city an additional $3.8 million, as well as $1.4 million for increased health care costs.
"I am proud that over the last three years, we have prioritized the well-being of all the employees who keep the capital city running," the mayor said.
The mayor also proposed $500,000 to upgrade police body cameras, to give officers automatically activated cameras rather than cameras that must be turned on manually.
"This technology not only brings greater public accountability and replaces old equipment, it allows officers to focus on protecting the public during stressful and dangerous situations," Biskupski said.
In addition to police, Biskupski also prioritized parks.
The mayor proposed $730,000 to restore the languishing Liberty Park Seven Canyons Fountain — a 24-year-old fountain the city shut down when funding was short to address needed upgrades and safety concerns.
To help "alleviate stress" on Liberty Park, Biskupski proposed $31,000 to create a "robust event grounds" at Jordan Park, to provide a new location for large-scale events seen at Liberty Park.
Also, the mayor proposed spending $1 million to restore the historic Fisher Mansion Carriage House to "anchor" the Jordan River Bridge with a nature center, a canoe-share program and a Greenbike station.
For transit, Biskupski proposed the city build on last year's $4.2 million investment in a high-frequency bus network, by using $2.8 million this year to enable the full operation of bus stops along 200 South, 900 South and 2100 South.
Biskupski also recommended an additional $800,000 to continue a pilot project to support a ride-share transit program for residents in Rose Park, Glendale, Poplar Grove, the far East Bench, and the Upper Avenues.
For housing, Biskupski proposed using $5.1 million to continue four programs she launched in April to bring housing stability to more than 120 people — while also recommending the city start two new programs. One would use $300,000 to identify housing discrimination and help provide assistance to victims, and one would use $350,000 to create a landlord insurance program to encourage more building owners to rent to individuals using housing assistance.
The mayor also recommended the city use $500,000 to double down on its Community Land Trust funding, a trust used to lower the cost of home ownership. With that money, the mayor said the city could purchase and renovate seven additional homes that could then be sold at lower prices.
For roads, Biskupski proposed continuing the momentum from last year's budget, when the city used $2.4 million to double its street maintenance crew. The mayor also recommended using more than $2.1 million for new capital improvement projects, bringing the total to $5.4 million for streets.
That, combined with the city's first round of financing from last year's voter-approved $87 million bond, will generate $20 million for street reconstruction projects slated for 2020 and 2021, the mayor said.
Additionally, Biskupski proposed $4 million to help the city toward its goal to reduce overall carbon output by 80 percent by 2040 by buying a new fleet of hybrid police vehicles — meant to replace 110 of the police department's "worst" vehicles with the new Ford Responder Hybrid Sedan, a vehicle now used in the New York Police Department.
"By prioritizing hybrid sedans with this funding, we estimate that each sedan will create an annual $2,300 fuel cost savings, as well as prevent 15,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere annually," the mayor said.
Finally, the mayor capped off her budget proposal by recommending $80,000 for a City Council initiative to hire a full-time census coordinator to ensure every city resident is counted in the 2020 census.
Referring to public concern about the upcoming census stemming from federal decision-making about the census, including attempts to add in a citizenship question, Biskupski said "Salt Lake City cannot afford to be undercounted" as "one of the most economically and racially diverse populations in Utah."
"Unfortunately, the Legislature declined to provide any additional funding for statewide efforts to ensure Utahns are properly counted — but the capital city will not make that mistake," the mayor said.
City Council Vice Chairman James Rogers praised the mayor's budget, expressing excitement to see sales tax dollars from last year's hike come to fruition.8 comments on this story
"The great thing about it is that we're at a point where it doesn't seem like we're scouring under the seat cushions," he said.
The council will scour the budget in the coming weeks to work through the details, but Rogers ultimately had high praise for Biskupski's final budget.
"This is a great start," he said. "For me, I think this is the best budget I've seen come out of this administration."
The council must adopt a balanced budget by June 30.
Correction: In an earlier version, photo captions misidentified Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking as Greg Wilkins.