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West Bountiful budget may be late

Law requires filing by June 22, but City Council isn’t satisfied

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WEST BOUNTIFUL — While most Utah cities are wrapping up their budgets for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1, West Bountiful is starting over.

West Bountiful Mayor James Behunin acknowledged that it's rather late in the game to start over, because state law requires cities to file budgets with the state auditor by June 22.

Failure to do so will likely result in a reprimand letter from the state auditor's office, which could also withhold state money from the city.

"The council felt like it hasn't seen a budget we can approve," Behunin said. "I think our community wants us to get a good budget, not just a quick budget."

The city's proposed budget for 2009 was $3,475,200 and included a 3.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees, said city manager Wendell Wild.

But when city officials learned that the Holly Oil refinery had been overpaying its taxes for the past few years, they had to cut $120,000 from the current budget.

Over the next few years, the city won't have the $16,000 a month it had counted on in tax revenue, and it also has to pay back the money to Holly. That money has to come from somewhere, and the city took it out of the public works budget.

Unfortunately, Behunin said, this was not a good time to have to shell out that kind of money.

A road study completed in 2007 by the Utah Local Technical Assistance Program recommended the city spend between $380,000 and $500,000 each year to maintain its roads, so they don't fail in the future.

The city committed to that, Behunin said, but the coming year's streets budget proposal is $245,000.

The city also commissioned a similar study of its water department. The answer came back that the city has been undercharging its residents to sufficiently maintain the system.

The city engineer has also identified $4.8 million in projects that need to be done in the next five years, but there's no way to spend that kind of money without increasing the water rates, Behunin said.

So city staff have been charged with reviewing the entire budget line by line and making a written justification for each line, Behunin said.

During Tuesday's council meeting, when the council is supposed to be approving its final budget, Behunin will begin to lay out some ideas for how to deal with expensive projects and declining revenue.

It's not a crisis, Behunin said, but a serious discussion has to happen.

And he wants to involve the public in that discussion.

"We want to have a budget that's accessible," he said. "We have not produced a document the public can understand. Before July is out, we will have such a document."

Behunin said he expects to hold future public hearings, and his residents will eventually be able to find out more at the city Web site: westbountiful.utah.gov.

E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com