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South Salt Lake Journal

Council approves upcoming budget, employees get raises

Jul 06, 2021 03:53PM ● By Bill Hardesty

Another new fire engine is one of the highlights of the FY2022 budget. (Courtesy of South Salt Lake)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

South Salt Lake’s budget for 2021-2022 was passed in June. Compared to the budget fight in 2018, this year was orderly and impressive.

Under the leadership of Chairperson Sharla Bynum, the budget process started on Feb. 10, when the council selected their budget priorities. Then, working with a consultant, the City Council worked through rank-ordering the priorities while considering comments from residents. They also considered a resident value survey conducted by Y2 Analytics.

Starting on April 14, departments put forward their one or two priorities before the council.

"This kept us moving in the right direction," Bynum said.

On April 28, Mayor Wood presented her tentative budget based on all the previous work. Since receiving the tentative budget, council members submitted questions to staff and received answers at City Council Meetings. By June 9, the council had worked through all submitted questions. As a result, the budget passed 6-1 with Councilman Shane Siwik the dissenting vote.

"This truly has been a collaborative effort, and I'm proud of the work we have accomplished," Bynum said. "There has been ample opportunity for discussion."

Wood's view was similar. "The budget process this year has been a collaborative effort with administration, staff, and the city council. Our discussions have been productive and reflective of both the council and department priorities. Moving forward with our Department of Neighborhoods, Civilian Review Board, merit and cost of living increases for our dedicated full-time employees and working toward developing an effective stormwater plan will benefit all residents and businesses for years to come." 

General Fund budget highlights

  • Pay Increases: The budget provides a 4% cost of living adjustment and a 4% merit pool for public safety employees. Except for elected officials, other city employees will receive a 4% cost of living adjustment and a 3% merit pool. This is especially good news to non-public safety city employees since no pay increases were given last year.
  • Civilian Review Board: A fully funded Civilian Review Board (CRB), which requires funding from the general fund (e.g., salaries) and the capital improvement fund (e.g., secured laptops), is part of the budget. With the standing up of the CRB, three new positions were created. A police lieutenant who will provide CRB support and lead the community policing and homeless resource center unit. A new data analysis will also be added to the SSLPD. This position will prepare items for the CRB and handle other administration duties. The final position is a part-time attorney in the city attorney office to provide legal advice to the CRB. While there is an addition to city staff, the CRB is an independent review board. For more information about the CRB, go to the city's website under the city government tab. The CRB was created with a 7-0 vote on June 26.
  • Director Promise SSL: This budget fully funds the Promise SSL director position. Previously, the job was funded with grant money. Funding it out of the general fund frees up funds for a new communication position and more funds to Promise SSL programs.
  • Neighborhood Department: This reorganization is a direct result of work on the General Plan and other surveys indicating residents are concerned about their neighborhoods. The department was approved at the June 23 council meeting. However, a director still needs to be approved. The new department is comprised of selected functions previously located in the mayor's office, public assets, and urban livability.
  • Stormwater Utility Fee: This budget was created with the belief the city will implement a stormwater utility fee by the end of the year. Currently there is no action before the council. This budget sets aside $50,000 to fund data analysis and engineering for the fee.

 Capital Improvements Fund budget highlights

  • Park playground improvements: The budget provides $125,000 for various playground improvements throughout the city.
  • City Hall generator: The budget allots $150,000 for a City Hall generator upgrade. In part, this upgrade is required to keep the power on during emergencies or pandemics.
  • Public Works campus: The budget provides $100,000 in funding for public works campus design/engineering.
  • Streetlighting: This issue was repeated often my residents. The budget allots $400,000 for Main Street and 3300 South streetlight projects. 
  • 500 West reconstruction: The budget provides for $1,000,000 for the 500 West reconstruction project starting by yearend.
  • Fire trucks: The budget has $800,000 to replace an aging fire engine. The new fire engine takes about 18-24 months to build. While not part of the budget, the council has approved leasing a fire tiller truck to replace the ladder truck. The first lease payment is not due for 18 to 24 months. A tiller truck was a priority for Chief Terry Addison because of the aging ladder truck, the economic development in SSL, and the mobility of a tiller truck compared to a ladder truck.
  • Balance budget: To balance the budget, $2,923,000 was taken from the fund balance, which is like the city’s savings account.

The city has four additional funds. Budgets for these funds were also approved by the City Council.

Lack of public engagement

As part of the budgeting process, the City Council must hold a public hearing on the proposed budget. This was done on June 9. However, it only lasted 30 seconds because no residents spoke.

"This is very disappointing," Shane Siwik, District 5, said, "This is what we do with your money."

Siwik has served on the council for 16 years. He has mentioned this situation is very typical.

The mayor did respond that some residents reached out via the city's website.