Area mayors are wading through Salt Lake County's budget to determine whether some cities pay for services they don't receive and whether county services are fairly allocated among the cities.
The cities also want to know whether they're subsidizing services provided to unincorporated areas.Questions of double taxation and resource allocation arose in the Council of Governments, which comprises the mayors throughout Salt Lake County and the County Commission.
"This has been a burr under the saddle of all mayors in the county who've been around awhile. Some say it goes back 40 years," said Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini.
The mayors wanted to hire a third party to review the county's budget, revenue allocation and policies for providing services.
But last week the mayors agreed to do their own initial audit of the county's budget and review of policies for six service areas. The committee will look at paramedics, recreation, parks, flood control, aging services and sheriff's investigation services. In three areas - parks, paramedics and sheriff's investigation - the issue is double taxation.
In the rest, mayors are concerned about how resources are allocated, said Terry Hogan, Salt Lake County support services director.
"The cities believed and still believe a third-party expert could get us to where we need to be quicker than doing it on a homemade basis, but we agree with the county that a policy discussion needs to take place," said Roger Black, Salt Lake City management services director and chairman of the committee. "We're willing to go this course."
County Commissioner Jim Bradley said the county supports the review by the mayors.
"We've offered to make any information available to them to understand what they perceive to be a double taxation issue," Bradley said. "I think there are a few minor areas where there probably is (double taxation), but certainly not
to the extent that Salt Lake City thinks there is."
Salt Lake City, which has taken the lead in raising the issue, stands to gain the most if an analysis currently under way comes to the same conclusion city officials have.
"It means big dollars to us," Black said. "If we can succeed in eliminating these last vestiges of double taxation, I would expect our residents would pay to the county general fund about $5 million dollars less than they now pay. I actually believe the number is higher than that, but that's the number I can support with the numbers I got from the county."