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SPENDING BY COUNTIES EXPECTED TO RISE 7 PERCENT IN '90

Utah's 29 counties will spend an estimated $322 million from their general operating funds during 1990, an increase of $21.4 million, or 7 percent, from amounts budgeted in 1989, the Utah Foundation said.

The private government watchdog organization said the average county budget increases are more than the 4.7 percent inflation rate over the past 12 months.Property tax has continued as the major revenue source for county operating funds in Utah, the foundation said, contributing $137 million, or 42.5 percent, of all county general revenues.

Last year, property tax rates ranged from a high of 0.4638 percent in Salt Lake County to a low of 0.1881 percent in Box Elder County.

The foundation's analysis of county budgets ranked the largest spending categories as: (1) general government, (2) streets and public improvements, (3) law enforcement and (4) public health and welfare.

"These four spending categories account for approximately two-thirds of all general expenditures budgeted by the 29 counties," the foundation said.

Per capita county expenditures range from a high of $1,304 in Daggett County to a low of $63 in Utah County, with a statewide average of $188. The foundation said the wide range is because certain basic services must be provided by all counties, regardless of population.

Another variable is the level of municipal-type services provided by some, but not all, counties.

But counties have a more limited revenue base than municipalities, the foundation said, noting Utah law authorizes only cities and towns to impose a utility franchise tax. Also, counties cannot collect sales taxes in localities that are already being taxed by a city or town.

"Last year the local sales tax produced $96.9 million for municipalities in Utah, but only $21.1 million for Utah counties," the foundation said.