It’s budget time at Salt Lake County. I recently presented my proposed 2015 budget to the county council. It is structurally balanced with existing revenues and no tax increase. My proposed budget supports my approach of efficient, cost-effective government service delivery and accountability to the taxpayer.
This is a lean budget that shows Salt Lake County is living within its means. We took a sharp pencil to all new requests for money and cut total requests from the mayor’s department and from other elected officials by $19.8 million. We’re holding the line on government, moving in new ways to more efficiently meet the demands of a growing population, while at the same time maintain support for healthy communities and an excellent quality of life.
I’m optimistic, given our strong fiscal track record and excellent fiscal management, that we’ll meet our responsibilities, including deferred maintenance. Our funding commitment to deferred maintenance amounts to a 400 percent increase over what was budgeted in 2010. It’s our responsibility to ensure everything operates safely and efficiently and serves the purpose for which it was designed, built and paid. Even though we’ve cut the backlog of deferred maintenance in half, I won’t be satisfied until we’ve met our goal.
The best way to balance our budget and keep taxes low is to support private sector job growth. Salt Lake County is in the national spotlight for our success in growing the economy and creating sustainable prosperity. We’re attracting a key segment of the workforce—the 25 to 34-year-olds who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. We’re keeping up with such hot job markets for these desirable workers as Nashville, Denver and Houston.
Our regional development team has begun to deliver on the promise to be efficient and effective partners in economic development. We’ve begun to plan and build safe, modern infrastructure improvements, partnering with cities and townships throughout the county to leverage transportation bond money. We’re meeting our core responsibility to protect public safety by directing needed funds to the Sheriff, the Emergency Operations Center, the District Attorney and the Legal Defenders Association.
I am excited that 2015 will be the year that Salt Lake County begins to move away from an outdated, “fund-what-once-worked-system” or “fund-what-we-hope-will-work-system” to a “fund-only-if-it-works” approach. I’ll be writing about that in more detail in the near future.
At a time when residents and taxpayers are fed up with government gridlock and partisan bickering, and skeptical of government’s ability to function, Salt Lake County will stand out as deserving of their support and trust. By collaborating across party lines and jurisdictions, our metro area will have safer streets, cleaner air, and more arts, parks, trails and open spaces if we work together.
Fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability, opportunity for all; these are the values that keep us strong. I look forward to working with the county council to finalize the budget and get residents’ comments at our Dec. 9 public hearing.