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Mayor Crafts Budget With Residents In Mind

Jun 12, 2015 12:36PM ● Published by Scott Bartlett

The Murray City Cemetery will continue to see improvements as part of the proposed 2015-2016 city budget. Photo by Scott Bartlett

A new fiscal year begins July 1, and Mayor Ted Eyre has proposed a budget he feels will benefit Murray residents. He presented the budget to the city council in its May 5 meeting.

“It is our primary responsibility to provide services to our residents,” said Eyre. In the past fiscal year, Eyre has focused on improving Murray and the lives of its residents through city services. Those services include a new culinary well at McGhie Springs, new reservation software for recreation programs and city facilities and street improvements. Those and other areas will continue to be the mayor’s focus in the upcoming year.

Eyre reported that the city’s general fund is 2.7 percent above last year’s levels. This increase is due in part to increased sales tax revenue.

The city’s Capital Improvement Program, or CIP, is a main area of focus in the budget. When departments save money in their operations budget, that money is placed in the CIP to be spent on one-time projects throughout the city.

Past and current CIP projects include the purchase of ten new police cars, a new ambulance and six new defibrillators. The city cemetery is being improved, including an update to the sprinkler system, the removal of roads and the creation of new burial plots. The Jordan River Parkway Trail is also being repaired and will have a new asphalt surface.

“This budgeting tool has been invaluable in planning for these large dollar expenditures,” said Eyre.

The CIP will continue to fund projects in the upcoming fiscal year, including the purchase of a new fire truck and another ten police cars, road projects and improvements to the pathway in Murray Park.

Eyre also reported that the city has received a triple-A credit rating, making Murray the second city in the state, along with Salt Lake City, to receive that rating. This means the city will get lower interest rates on future bonds.

“What this tells you is that the city is well run,” said Justin Zollinger, the city’s finance director. “We have great financial policies that dictate how we do business. The impact is when we need to build a city hall or a big project, it actually costs less in interest. It could save us a lot of money over time.”

In the last fiscal year, the power department used reserve funds to pay down bond balances early. The power department, the mayor, the city council and Zollinger decided that it made sense to pay down those bond balances out of reserves to save money on interest, rather than rebuild the reserve.

Zollinger said the early payoff made in the last fiscal year saved over $640,000 in interest. The mayor’s current proposed budget calls for the same early payoff plan, which will save another $870,000 in interest. This year’s bond payments will pay off the remainder of the balances six years earlier than scheduled. The city will again tap reserves for this payment.

Eyre also plans to award a three percent increase in compensation to all full-time, benefited employees. The increase is based partly on merit and partly on a cost-of-living adjustment.

According to Zollinger, this is only the third year since 2008 that city employees have received this sort of merit increase or cost-of-living adjustment. Zollinger says the recession played a major role in preventing wage increases.

The budget will also cover an eight percent increase in the city’s employee health insurance plan.

“Our employees … take pride in providing great service to our residents,” said Eyre. “The work they do is accomplished by dedicated, trained, professional employees. These are ways we can acknowledge and appreciate all the good work they do.”

The entire 2015-2016 budget accounts for just over $119 million in revenue and expenditures. This includes revenue that would be generated from a proposed 0.2 percent local sales tax that Eyre has proposed to the city council. Should that tax not pass, the budget would have to be scaled back accordingly.

The budget is now in the hands of the city council for review. They, the mayor, Zollinger and other departments are working to fine-tune the details of the budget. Zollinger expects that several details will change, but that the main components will stay as proposed by Eyre.

Those wishing to review the budget in its entirety should visit the city website at murray.utah.gov and navigate to the Finance Department page.

The city council plans to vote on the budget in its June 16 meeting.  
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