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Mayor’s budget emphasizes public safety

May 14, 2018 04:36PM ● Published by Shaun Delliskave

The mayor’s budget focuses on retaining public safety personnel. (Photo/Rae Delliskave)

By Shaun Delliskave|s.delliskave@mycityjournals.com

In the past, Murray had to compete with other cities in attracting new business and investment to the city, but now it’s faced with the dilemma of attracting another vital resource: police officers and firefighters. In addition to infrastructure, Mayor Blair Camp’s 2018 budget stressed the need to retain Murray’s civil servants.

In his first budget as mayor, Camp is proposing to increase General Fund revenues through a $2.8 million property tax increase, the majority of which will go directly to support the cost of the police and fire departments. The city has not realized a property tax increase in the past 12 years. The cost of this proposed increase on the average residence with an assessed value of $315,000 will be $9.20 per month.

“Our employee compensation, particularly in the area of public safety, is lagging behind other agencies around us. There is a shortage of qualified candidates for police officers,” said Camp.

Indeed, the number of available law enforcement recruits have diminished as demand has increased between agencies. With an improving job market and tighter scrutiny of law enforcement personnel, available recruits are hard to come by. This pinch in available public safety workers has caused cities across Utah to compete with other agencies by offering higher compensation and better benefits.

Camp also seeks to increase public safety ranks by hiring one additional police officer to assist in covering an increased caseload, providing a school resource officer at AISU, hiring two additional crossing guards, one additional battalion chief in the fire department to manage firefighter training and safety programs, and upgrading one part-time office staff position in the fire department to full-time.

These personnel requests come in addition to capital building funding of a new fire department headquarters/fire station. Groundbreaking is planned for this summer.

In addition to public safety, the mayor is asking for new full-time positions, including one risk analyst in the city attorney’s office to assist in managing the city-wide risk management program, one electrician in the water department, two apprentice line workers in the power department, one facilities maintenance supervisor and one maintenance worker in the parks department. The city plans to cut an assistant golf pro position.

Personnel aside, the mayor’s budget includes several large capital improvement and utility projects, including $2.5 million to rebuild the power department’s central substation. Many of Camp’s projects are focused on maintenance and replacement costs. According to Camp, “This strategy allowed us to provide a more balanced funding approach without concentrating on one specific demand.”

The library is also seeking an increase in property taxes of 55 percent more than its current rate.  The cost of this increase on the average residence with an assessed value of $315,000 is $2.75 per month. The library has not realized a tax increase since 2006.

“The cost is lower than the Salt Lake County Library assessment...having our own library system (even with the increased rate) saves Murray residents money.”

During the Great Recession in 2008, the city took a major hit in sales tax, which is its primary revenue source, and it took the city until the fiscal year 2015 to restore sales tax revenue to the amount collected in 2007.

Prior to presenting his budget in council meeting, Camp recognized Murray’s Finance Department for earning a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. The mayor presented this certificate to Danyce Steck.

The city plans to hold open houses in each city council district, where the public will be invited to comment on the budget. A copy of the mayor’s budget can be found at http://www.murray.utah.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8197.

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