City Council Approves 2017 Budget
Aug 03, 2016 08:37AM
● By Bryan Scott
The Murray City Council approved the budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. –Kimberly Roach
By Tyler Warren
Murray, Utah - On June 30, the Murray City Council voted to approve the budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Murray’s revenue stream was bolstered by a growing Utah economy, continuing the trend of rising sales tax revenue over the last two years.
There were no new positions added to the City’s budget this year. Wages of most employees come from the general fund, which pays for 284 of 393 workers. However, there was in increase in personnel costs of $1.1 million. This amount comes from raising employee wages 1% to reflect an adjustment to increased cost of living, and a 4% merit based raise to be determined by the Mayor.
Employee health insurance benefits also increased, and now sit 3.5% higher than the 2016 fiscal year. However, with the option of employees to opt out of the insurance program, the dollar amount of this increase only came to $12,400. Retirement costs stayed flat.
Of the $3.5 million generated by the .2% sales tax, $3,150,000 will go to capital improvement projects and $350,000 will partially fund payroll. Most departments saw increases in personnel costs, due to the cost of living adjustments and merit based raise.
In some cases, employee and operations costs were lower. Because of a decreased workload the Municipal Justice Court reduced their staffing, shaving nearly $30,000 from last year’s budget.
The City Council budget also showed savings from the 2015-2016 fiscal year due to the transfer of the city lobbyist to the Mayor’s office. Because of this, they were able to allocate $12,000 to the travel and training budget to allow members to attend National League of Cities conferences.
The library is recognized as one of the most challenged funds in Murray. This is because it is mostly paid for by property tax. There have been few recent increases in property tax revenue because much of Murray is already built out. This year Murray City’s General Fund took on the Library’s IT employee to free some space in their budget. The Library is considering a new building in Murray’s Downtown Development Area.
This year’s budget for capital projects reflects the City’s vision to transform its downtown into an “urban environment where residents can live, work, and play.” The Redevelopment Agency’s budget includes funds for new projects in the downtown area. They are also proposing a 12% tax pass through from the Smelter Site to help fund the Murray School District.
To promote the Murray as a walkable community, the city is funding parks and trails as well. This includes a trail between Wheeler Farm and Fontaine Bleu Drive, which will be funded in part with $180,000 rolled over from the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget. The remaining funds required to complete this project will not be appropriated until Murray negotiates the right to use land along a canal owned by Salt Lake City.
Also in the works for redevelopment is the construction of a new city hall. The Council claims the project is justified due to the poor condition of the current hall. As part of this project, $2.8 million was allocated from the General Fund reserves to pay off the 2007 Sales Tax Revenue Bonds. This is only in preparation as construction is not scheduled to begin in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Utilities budgets, (water, waste water, and power) decreased significantly, because of a need for fewer capital projects. But the Murray Parkway budget increased drastically, requiring $2.3 million for a new irrigation system, mowers and golf carts. Expenses related to UTOPIA saw a very slight increase of $10,000. The budget document acknowledged the beleaguered fiber optic network as “one of the most difficult problems facing the city.”
Regardless, Murray remains financially stable and primed for future growth. Murray’s Finance Director, Justin Zollinger, described this year’s budget as sustainable.
“We were able to balance the budget, and provide substantial improvements in various areas… we invested in several projects that will be beneficial and which our citizens will be able to enjoy for years to come.”