The Salt Lake City Council approved its fiscal 2021-22 budget Tuesday night, back to pre-pandemic level spending and facing far less financial uncertainty than it did last year.
The budget provides money for the usual city functions, like maintaining parks and paying city staff. But this year, it also included a big focus on public safety. The Salt Lake Tribune previously covered Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s recommended changes for the fiscal year ahead, which starts next month. But the City Council made its own tweaks and additions, including $358 million for the general fund that’s more than $8 million on top of what the mayor proposed. Here are some of the budget highlights:
Taxes aren’t going up, but fees are
With the end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight, businesses mostly back to normal and a construction boom in full swing, the council won’t be raising property taxes. But residents might notice a slight increase in certain fees for things like business licenses, building permits and park reservations. Mendenhall previously recommended bumping up those fees according to the consumer price index, although the increases won’t be finalized until July, according to city staff.
Salt Lakers will also notice an increase to their utility bills, by as much as 18% for sewer, to help pay for new treatment facilities. Trash collection fees are going up by 12%.
The police department gets a boost
Amid calls to defund the police last year, the council made modest cuts and moved some of the police department’s budget into nondepartmental funds last year. In line with Mendenhall’s recommendation, the council restored the police budget and gave it a bump of nearly $1 million compared to fiscal 2019. The total budget for the police department for the next 12 months is nearly $83.4 million.
The council will be funding 12 more social workers to assist police — double the number of mental health workers the mayor requested — bringing the total number of social workers in the department to 22.
The budget also sets aside $2 million to fund future improvements to police interactions with the public recommended by the Commission for Racial Equity in Policing.
911 dispatchers get some relief
Last year was tough for city employees working at the 911 call center, and not just because of the pandemic. Call volume went up by 700 calls, due to the earthquake March 18, compared to the year before. The center received 1,200 more calls than usual due to the May 30 protest-turned-riot, which largely focused on the city’s public safety building and forced the dispatch center into lockdown. Then, on Sept. 8, hurricane-force winds flooded the center with calls for help, with volume up by 2,300 calls compared to 2019, according to a budget presentation to the City Council last month.
By Dec. 31, the center had lost 27 employees. The 911 dispatch center’s turnover for the year was 28%.
The council agreed to pay for a new pilot program, which will include hiring eight workers and reducing dispatchers’ workweeks to 32 hours, while keeping their pay the same. The mayor recommended $153,450 to fund the program for six months, and the council boosted it by $127,875 to make it an 11-month pilot. The additional money came from Funding Our Future revenue.
The city will get new employees, a new public market and a new department
The city will use money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to hire 60 more employees to improve city services and create programs to help residents recover from the pandemic. The budget also gives current employees a 2% raise. And, in an effort to bring more fresh food to the city’s underserved west-side communities, the budget sets aside $1 million for a year-round public market in the Fairpark neighborhood. The council also earmarked $18.8 million for a new Public Lands Department that will oversee trails, open spaces, parks and urban forestry.