To keep Provo on top of the country's safest-places-to-live list, city officials are proposing a slight utility tax increase.
In revealing the proposed 1994-95 budget Tuesday night, Mayor George Stewart said the 1 percent utility tax increase would raise about $600,000 in new revenue. Most of the new money would be used to increase the police department's budget by about $400,000, and the rest would help staff a new fire station the mayor wants built in southwest Provo.The tax increase would apply to the city electric, water and sewer bills. Also, Mountain Fuel and US WEST would collect the tax on gas and telephone bills. For most residents, the increase would be about $2 a month. City officials are proposing no property tax increase.
"Nobody likes to increase taxes," Stewart said. "But if we want the public safety we need in this community, it's going to be mandatory."
With crime and gang activity on the rise in surrounding states and communities, Stewart said it's important the city is proactive in crime prevention rather than reactive. Most of the new money likely would be used to hire additional police officers.
"It is the intention of the administration to work closely with the council in upcoming weeks to identify the specific ways this funding will be used by the police department in their ongoing efforts to improve the overall quality of public safety of our community," Stewart said.
A new fire station in southwest Provo has been on the drawing boards since 1979. Stewart is proposing the city spend about $400,000 in surplus sales tax revenues to construct a new fire station near Center Street and Geneva Road. Construction of the building would begin this summer.
"This has been something that is long overdue, and this is indicative of our commitment to the entire city and not just parts of the city," he said.
The proposed budget also calls for $1.3 million to be spent on sidewalk and street improvements. The money would come from operating funds, block grants and federal road funds.
"The proposed program is more than double the money budgeted in each of the past two years for this type of work on streets and sidewalks," Stewart said.
To provide additional meeting space and space for a possible future justice court, the budget would allocate $400,000 for remodeling of the council chambers. It is estimated the total remodeling cost would be more than $850,000, so council members would need to appropriate money next year as well. The city is considering starting a justice court to handle city-issued traffic and misdemeanor citations now handled in circuit court.
"There's a good chance the state may make us start a justice court, and right now we don't have anywhere to put one," Stewart said.
The parks and recreation department master plan calls for construction of Georgetown Park near the RiverWoods Research and Business Park. A developer donated $100,000 for the park, and the budget calls for the city to contribute $100,000. Additional funds would have to come from state and federal grants.
About $200,000 is earmarked in the proposed budget for software and hardware upgrades in the city's management information systems.
"The federal government is about 10 years behind in this area, and I don't think the city needs to do that," Stewart said.
The total proposed budget calls for about $77 million in expenditures. About half of the total budget revenues and expenditures are in the energy department. The general fund budget calls for expenditures of more than $23 million, an increase of about $2 million.
Public hearings on the proposed budget are scheduled for May 17 and May 24 during the regular council meetings. The council will vote on the proposed budget June 7.
General Fund $21.5 million $23.3 million
Where it comes from:
Property tax $2,367,825 $2,439,000
Sales tax $7,610,971 $8,382,000
Franchise tax $2,420,278 $3,130,825
Misc. taxes $781,000 $877,000
Licenses, permits and fees $2,901,697 $3,060,133
Misc. taxes $877,000 $781,000
Fund transfers $5,231,464 $5,403,723
Where it goes:
Police $5,816,544 $6,153,142
Street projects $1,300,000 $600,000
Streets $1,218,101 $1,248,342
Fire $3,994,430 $4,228,337
Parks and recreation $2,953,700 $2,984,064
Community development $1,046,071 $1,145,979
Capital improvements $705,300 $1,290,000
Municipal council $345,294 $404,067
Mayor's office $485,765 $410,058
Economic development $373,701 $334,870
One percent increase in utility tax.