Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams didn’t tinker much when his chance came to make mid-year revisions to the 2013 budget he inherited upon taking office in January.
“It’s probably the lightest June adjustment period I can ever remember,” longtime county financial officer Darrin Casper said Tuesday when he introduced McAdams’ proposed adjustments, which will be up for final County Council approval Tuesday.
Driving the mayor’s conservative fiscal approach, Casper said, was an insistence on keeping every county fund balance in the black and on refraining from raising spending until new revenues equal or exceed those amounts.
But right now, economic prospects are not looking quite as good as they did when the 2013 budget was put together in late fall.
Part of that is due to the massive landslide that will shut down much of Kennecott’s operations for the rest of the year and beyond, said another county financial officer, Lance Brown, noting that Kennecott is a major payer of sales tax revenue for purchases involving its copper mining and refining system.
With the loss of its purchasing power, Brown predicted, the county’s sales tax collections for the year would decline $1.2 million from previous projections to $137.8 million. That is still up from 2012’s figure of closer to $130 million.
The biggest dropoff from earlier forecasts ($800,000) involves the 1 percent local option sales tax that goes into the municipal services fund. But smaller losses also would occur among taxes collected on hotel stays and car rentals and for the Zoo, Arts and Parks program.
Restaurant taxes, by contrast, continue to go up. Projected to reach $18 million when the budget was assembled, restaurant taxes now are likely to hit $18.4 million. “It’s the most resilient tax through tough economic times,” Brown said.
McAdams did ask the council to allow him to move around some money to accomplish a few objectives.
One requested adjustment would provide funding to hire a regional development director to oversee economic initiatives and other efforts that impact or could benefit multiple jurisdictions in the valley.
Another would restore $60,000 in county contribution to support the Sundance Film Festival. That funding, which at one point reached $150,000, had been cut over the past few years to $6,800. As a result, said Sarah West, Sundance’s director of community development, “we’re in a pickle for programming we’re already committed to.”
Council members seemed receptive to the mayor’s proposal, although they wanted more information about Sundance’s economic impact on the county. Still, as Councilman Randy Horiuchi argued, “I challenge anyone to think of an event that brings, financially and reputation-wise, as much on an international basis to this valley as the festival does. It is a happening.”