The Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties don't always agree, but they're on the same path toward resolution of one well-traveled issue.
Millions of dollars will be at stake for local governments when legislators consider a bill sponsored by Rep. Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, which would change the way the state allocates funding for county and local roadways.All roads, from the dirtiest dirt road to the widest county boulevard are currently considered equal. Stephens' bill, which enjoys its strongest support in urban areas but is supported by both the league and the association, would allocate more funding for miles traveled on paved roads and less for dirt roads.
The reworking of the existing funding formula could mean thousands of extra dollars for cities with an expanding network of heavily used roads.
Midvale, for example, will deploy its two top officials to the Capitol for the duration of the 1997 Legislature in part to lobby for the bill. It is projected to receive $324,600 in state road funds for fiscal year 1998, but if the formula is changed, the city could get an additional $58,000.
Of even more importance to county governments is a proposal that would give them another way to generate tax revenue besides raising property taxes. A bill filed by Rep. Tom Hatch, R-Panguitch, would give all Utah counties the option of imposing a quarter-cent sales tax. Counties choosing to enforce the tax would have to cut property taxes by an equal amount. A similar bill has been filed in the Senate.
Tourism-rich counties like the idea because they spend thousands of dollars each year providing services for visitors who leave the majority of their sales tax dollars inside cities, leaving county residents to foot the bill for services like police and rescue.
Cities and towns, meanwhile, are also concerned that the state may transfer jurisdiction for certain state roads to them without providing the money to maintain them. That issue could be decided this session.
Several mayors have appealed to legislators to keep their hands off the state's redevelopment agency statute, saying they rely heavily on it to broaden their economic and tax bases.
Counties are watching a series of bills concerning the criminal defense of indigents, which can prove costly, especially to smaller and poorer counties. Another bill would help counties fund search-and-rescue teams. Some county officials want a bigger share of the state-imposed gasoline tax.
Deseret News staff writers Lynn Arave and Don Rosebrock contributed to this report.