Let there be (more) light.
Residents and business owners in Salt Lake City may be about to get some help paying for streetlights.
Need some light shed on the fee proposal?A public hearing on Salt Lake City’s proposed streetlight fee is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers, 451 S. State St., Room 315.
A City Council proposal for a streetlight fee comes as some 1,500 streetlights are burned out with no funding to replace them.
State schools, state and federal government buildings, and some nonprofit organizations, such as churches, don’t pay for streetlights.
The city’s streetlighting system is supported by general fund monies made up largely of property and sales tax dollars.
In some neighborhoods, streetlighting also is underwritten by special improvement-district fees.
For the past three years, the economic downturn has taken a budgetary toll on Salt Lake City programs, including streetlights, according to Council Chairman Soren Simonsen.
"Three years ago, we had to cut considerably into the general fund," he said. "Some of those cuts began to hurt neighborhoods."
But the City Council is poised to change the way it funds streetlights. According to a proposed ordinance that seems to have wide support among council members, an enterprise fund would be created by assessing a fee on all properties.
For residents, the proposed ordinance calls for a monthly fee of $3.73. For others, the assessment would be $3.73 for every 75 feet of street frontage. Fees from special improvement districts would eventually cease as those districts expire.
"This creates a more stable revenue stream," Simonsen said, "and captures revenue from government and nonprofit institutions that don’t contribute to the general fund."
Councilman Carlton Christensen agreed that a fee "makes the most sense over the long term, although it won’t be popular."
Mayor Ralph Becker had forwarded a proposal that called for a $2.73 fee. But the council determined it wasn’t enough to catch up on deferred maintenance on the aging system.
The general fund budget for streetlighting will run out about the first of the calendar year, Simonsen said, so the council must act soon.
For the past few years, streetlighting has been funded to about $1 million in Salt Lake City, said Jim Lewis, financial administrator for the Public Utilities Department. The new fee would bring in about $3.6 million annually.
That would allow the city to replace nonfunctioning lights, begin replacement of aging light poles, and start phasing in more energy-efficient lighting, Lewis said.
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