For the sixth year in a row, Salt Lake County commissioners decided against a tax increase, much to the chagrin of the lone Republican commissioner.
Republican D. Michael Stewart was outvoted Wednesday by Democratic Commissioners James Bradley and Randy Horiuchi, who feel raising taxes at this point is not in the county's - or the Democrats' - best interest.Horiuchi said Democrats tend to be known for raising taxes, and he hopes the decision to not raise taxes will help erase that stigma.
Stewart, who advocated a tax increase, said that although he is happy taxes were not raised he thinks the decision is irresponsible - that the result of not raising taxes this year will result in an even bigger tax increase in coming years.
One of his biggest concerns is the $2.9 million to $3.5 million in programs commissioners added to this year's budget.
Commissioners dispute the actual amount that has been added to the budget, as well as how much money will go to what fund. In fact, the only number they agree upon is $254 million, a rounded figure of the total budget.
According to Commission Chairman James Bradley, the added money will fund:
- Flood control projects
- Four new firefighters.
- Four new temporary nurses to the Health Department staff
- The renovation and expansion of the Salt Palace
Stewart is also concerned about how to pay for the upkeep of the Oxbow Jail, being built in South Salt Lake.
Stewart said taxpayers voted for a tax increase a few years ago to fund the Oxbow Jail. Previous commissioners, and now present commissioners, opted not to take advantage of the public's willingness to help pay for the jail, taking money from county surpluses instead.
"We should have done what the people told us to do. . . . We're eating our seed corn to pay for the jail that the voters approved, and have done that the last three years. It's going to cause us a bigger problem, and long-term budgeting has gone to pot."
Stewart was referring to the five-year budget plan prepared by the county auditor's office.
According to documents prepared by budget director Nelson Williams, the county will have an $11 million deficit in 1994 unless taxes are raised or some other forms of revenue are found.
Bradley said he is reluctant to raise taxes and has no plans to do so in the future unless "absolutely necessary. Although the county is strapped in its budget, we must keep in mind the people of our county are strapped, too."