Republicans who hold a 5-4 majority on the Salt Lake County Council are willing to consider a tax increase but maybe not as much as Mayor Peter Corroon recommended to balance a "challenging" 2013 budget, Council Chairman David Wilde said Tuesday.
"We all recognize the challenging financial situation this county finds itself in," he said at the end of a budget discussion, the council's fourth since Nov. 8 when Corroon, a Democrat, recommended a 17.5 percent tax increase to balance his proposed 2013 budget of $788 million.
Corroon's proposal would cost an additional $64 annually for the owner of a $238,000 home, the county's median value.
"The Republican side of this [council], we're willing to consider some revenue enhancement, but I'm not sure we're willing to go to the level the mayor is requesting," Wilde said. "Maybe we'll find some cutbacks and limitations and meet halfway on revenue enhancement compared to continued austerity.
"But we'll have to wait and see," he added.
There's not much waiting time left, however. If the council decides a property-tax increase is necessary, it must settle on a figure by Nov. 28. That's the deadline for publishing a legal notice advertising the council's Dec. 11 public hearing on the 2013 budget and whatever tax hike is being considered.
And with the Thanksgiving holiday weekend taking a few days off the schedule, County Council financial adviser Dave Delquadro said, "We'll come back on Monday at 5 p.m. and chop a lot of wood. We don't have a lot of time."
To set the stage for that meeting, the council asked Corroon to give Delquadro a list of projects in the mayor's budget that could be delayed or cut to avoid a tax hike.
But even with a few cuts, Delquadro earlier warned the council that the county's continuing financial needs may be so great that Corroon's proposed 17.5 percent tax increase may not be enough.
"The tax increase gives you the ability to have adequate fund balances until 2016," he said. But at that point, the council would face another tax bump or deeper cuts.
Delquadro also raised the possibility of revising the formula for reimbursing county employees for wages and benefits that were cut when the Great Recession was raging in 2008 and 2009.
Corroon proposed boosting wages 1.75 percent and benefits 2 percent to finish restoring employee compensation packages to pre-recession levels.
Delquadro suggested it might be less expensive for Salt Lake County over the long run if the council gave employees a bigger chunk of cash and left it up to them to determine how to address their own benefits packages.
Besides Corroon's proposed 17.5 percent tax increase, his plan for 2013 also includes a tax hike for homeowners of about $18 a year to support the County Library System.
Increased tipping fees at the landfill are part of the proposal as well.
P Whatever 2013 budget and tax increase the Salt Lake County Council adopts will be subject to a public hearing 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the County Government Center, 2001 S. State St.