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Many Utah cities still struggling to recover from recession

Published May 30, 2013 6:33 am

Insurance • Increasing health care costs hurting many already stretched budgets.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession, many cities across the Wasatch Front are still struggling to keep up with health care and other costs while providing the services residents need and want.

Taylorsville, though, appears to be one of the only cities proposing a property-tax increase for residents.

In the westside town, administrators are proposing a 47 percent property-tax bump to cover road maintenance, public-safety increases and other expenses.

The proposed increase would add $112.08 a year to the city portion of a homeowner's tax bill, bringing that total to $345.58 on a $197,000 residence.

Taylorsville raised property taxes by 15 percent last year, which resulted in an additional $29.16 annually on a $197,000 home.

News is better in south valley cities.

There, economic growth and lean city employment have left city budget increases manageably small. No south valley city is raising their budget more than 5 percent, and none have any tax increases planned.

While rising health care costs are a budgetary issue for many cities this year, some south valley cities are avoiding them entirely. Herriman and Riverton have not posted health insurance premium increases by closely managing their employees' use of insurance benefits by having fitness programs or discouraging people from going to the doctor for minor ailments. Others cap their part-time workers' hours to prevent benefit eligibility.

Cities such as Riverton, Herriman, Draper and South Jordan are reaping the benefits of their rapid growth. They have seen enough increase in their property- and sales-tax bases to forgo big budget cuts and tax-rate increases.

After years of belt-tightening, suburban cities in the middle of Salt Lake County are beginning to feel some post-recession relief. But most officials are practicing cautious restraint as they approach new spending measures.

In the new fiscal year, Cottonwood Heights employees will enjoy 2.5 percent wage increases, but rising health care premiums mean that workers must shoulder more of those costs.

In nearby Murray, workers will see pay increases in various forms and the city will also fund this year's $550,000 jump in benefit costs.

In Davis County cities, some budgets are showing growth, but money is still tight and municipalities are looking for ways to stretch their dollars. Tax increases appear to be off the table in Davis County as the cities find other ways to balance budgets. Some cities are proposing increases in fees for water, sewer and street lighting.

There will be no property tax increase in Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's proposed $213 million budget.

However,the mayor has said the city is spreading its resources thin and a tax hike could be in the offing next year.

Tribune reporters Christopher Smart and DJ Summers contributed to this article. —

More details inside

Check out the Close Up section for more specific information about city budgets in your area.