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WEBER STRUGGLES TO BALANCE BUDGET

The Weber County Commission is being urged to balance its nearly $1 million budget shortfall with this year's restaurant tax revenue and postpone plans for an Olympic ice rink or downtown conference center for Ogden.

"We're facing the crisis this year and it's got to be resolved by next year," said county Auditor-Clerk-Treasurer Greg Haws during a meeting Wednesday.Commissioners asked the county's other elected officials to try to cut their budgets in an effort to eliminate the shortfall without layoffs or using restaurant tax funds.

The shortfall, a result of overestimated revenue projections and a budgeting error, could be solved by paying a $777,000 bill for the fairgrounds with restaurant taxes instead of money out of the general fund, Haws has said. The general fund money could then be used to keep the county out of the red.

Haws said an unresolved deficit could ruin the county's credit rating, making it difficult to borrow money to pay for operating costs this January.

Other officials agreed with Haws.

County Attorney Reed Richards said his department's caseload gets bigger every year and it will be difficult to trim his budget.

"You're asking us to pay for the fairgrounds, and we're saying we're not willing to do it," Richards said.

County Assessor David Haun complained that trimming his department could reduce the amount of revenue it collects.

He cited the example of his department's employees taking to the streets to make sure that residents who are doing construction have taken out building permits. Without those employees, he said, enforcement will cease and people won't pay for building permits or be assessed taxes.

The officials criticized plans to begin building a $5.9 million Olympic ice rink at Weber State University. The Utah Sports Authority has committed $3 million to fund the project, leaving the rest up to Weber County.

"You're talking about an ice rink that can be built next year," Richards said. "We all know that the Olympics aren't going to take place for another 10 years."

Commissioner Joan Hellstrom said she did not want to use the restaurant tax money, set aside for tourism and recreational facilities, to balance the budget.