City council reduces community development budget request from $200,000 to $15,000
Mar 19, 2019 01:46PM
● By Bill Hardesty
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
With about three months left in fiscal year 2019, the city staff presented a budget amendment to the city council during a work session and regular meeting on Feb. 27. The amendment involved both the general fund and the capital fund. The amendment was also discussed during a regular meeting on March 6. At this meeting, the amendment was changed and passed.
The general fund portion of the amendment consisted of three items. The first two parts involved moving funds and the third part was an accounting change.
As a result of the building boom in South Salt Lake City, the building permit fees doubled in fiscal year 2019. The budget projected $400,000 in building fees but year to date, the city has collected $847,000. This provides an option for the city to move some funds.
The amendment called for $23,500 of the surplus to pay for funeral expenses related to Officer David Romrell’s death. This part passed with no discussion. The second part was far more controversial.
The city staff asked for $200,000 to be transferred to Community Development to start the process of updating city ordinances ($120,000) and hire third-party help to reduce the community development project backlog ($80,000).
Three staff members, Hannah Vickery (Deputy City Attorney), Alex White (Planning Division Manager), and Dennis Pay (City Engineer) spoke to the council. White reported that a comprehensive review of Title 15 (Land Development) and Title 17 (what you put on the property) hasn’t been done for years.
Vickery added that, “It not acceptable to be out of compliance with state law.”
The group pointed out that having outdated ordinances causes a bottleneck for processing development requests. It hampers the process.
A group of council members led by Councilman Mark Kindred and Councilman Shane Siwik questioned the request wondering why this request could not be part of fiscal year 2020.
“We would like to start the process. It will take time,” White replied. Pay added, “We want to take a bite out of it.”
Siwik wondered if the money would be better spent on capital needs such as storm water. In the end, the council struck this part of the amendment. If an ordinance review is done, it will be a fiscal year 2020 action. The discussion moved to the remaining $80,000 for the backlog.
The two big concerns of the backlog are the library project and the Tracy Aviary project. It was pointed out that the library project review work was already funded from community development funds ($24,000-$25,000) with the expectation that the developer will reimburse the city by paying the expedite fees.
Members of the city council pointed out that developers are paying an expedite fee (see article in this issue about expedite fees) which should resolve the backlog.
“The backlog is being translated by the public that the city staff is against community focused projects, which is not true. We have found a solution,” Mayor Cherie Wood stated.
Pay added, “You are asking us to process projects without giving us the resources. Let’s get through the backlog.”
Councilman Ray deWolfe observed, “When staff comes with a solution and we shoot them down, that is a morale issue.” His comment brought claps from the audience.
Siwik pointed out that as of Jan. 31, there appears to be $101,000 in professional services not yet spent. He suggested the problem is lack of staff rather than lack of funds.
“If hiring people was the only solution, the problem is a tight job market,” the mayor shot back.
Councilwoman Sharla Bynum, who presented the budget amendment, kept trying to find a comprise position.
Councilman Ben Pender said, “It was bad policy to pay fees for private companies.” But he could agree to using some of the funds to get the Tracy Aviary project unstuck.
The mayor pointed out that she was given a drop-dead date of May 15 from the county to begin work on the Tracy Aviary site or lose it.
In the end, the council agreed to move $15,000, which is the typical expedite fee charged developers, to Community Development earmarked for the Tracy Aviary.
The amendment listed two changes. The city has received a grant to assist in creating the Teen Tech Center. They also received a grant from the State for trees at Fitts Park.
The city council approved these changes without discussion.