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Murray Journal

Murray revenue improves with sales tax/CARES Act funding

Sep 22, 2020 02:57PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City Municipal Court and law enforcement received $100,841 in Justice Department COVID grant funds. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

After the COVID pandemic slammed global and local economies in March, Murray’s budget picture improved with increased sales tax revenue and CARES Act funding. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in March.

Sales tax revenues, according to the Utah State Tax Commission, increased 6.40% in June, compared to June 2019. The uptick in sales tax revenue is an improvement from April, where Murray saw a negative 29.4% decline in revenue, that largest percentage decrease out of all Salt Lake County municipalities.

In comparison, Murray’s neighbors all saw double-digit increases in sales tax collections comparatively for June. Murray only outperformed Salt Lake City out of all Salt Lake County cities.

Utah received $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief funding through the CARES Act; $562 million of that money went to local governments, of which $1,456,622 was earmarked for Murray. Funding to the city was passed through Salt Lake County from the federal government.

At the July 7 city council meeting, City Finance Director Brenda Moore presented the funding agreement between the county and the city. 

“We have to approve the receipt of the money and give the mayor the ability to execute the contract between the city and the county for the receipt of the CARES-backed money. We need to spend it by Oct. 20 and report to the county on how we do use these funds,” Moore said. The council unanimously approved the resolution.

Since some funding was not spent by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the city council had to approve the rollover of funds into the new fiscal year. At the Sept. 1 council meeting, they specifically approved the earmarked items: $100,841 Justice Department COVID grant; $15,000 Utah Humanities CARES grant; $4,000 Utah Division of Arts & Museums CARES grant; $4,081 Utah Department of Health EMS grant; and $2,045 State Library CARES grant in the Library Fund.

According to Moore, “Budgets do not automatically roll from one year to the next it’s always stopped (at the end of the fiscal year and) the money goes into reserves. This is the process to get it out of reserves so that we can finish the projects.” 

Moore added that the finance department was gathering costs incurred since mid-March, including labor, supplies, and ongoing expenses related to COVID-19 for the possible use of some of the grant money. The finance department would also look at whether it would be possible to offer grants or assistance to individuals or businesses affected by COVID-19.

She clarified that money could not be used to offset Murray City’s revenue losses or directly pay customers’ utility bills affected by the COVID crisis. She would continue to monitor the rules and regulations governing the funds to understand the future application, which changes daily.

In addition to rolling over funds to use in the new fiscal year, the city council increased the budget for animal control contract services: $12,928 for the Urban Wildlife Assistance Program. The wildlife in question are skunks, about which the city has received numerous complaints. 

The city’s new animal control contract with Salt Lake County will pay its Animal Services Division to trap and relocate the animals. In the summer, skunks were found around Murray City Hall. Large skunk populations have been found along the Jordan River Parkway. The animals take advantage of pet food set out by homeowners and stray-animal activists. There was also a recent cougar sighting near TOSH.

The city council also approved the receipt and appropriation of $2,074,149 from Salt Lake County for the Capital Improvement Projects Fund. These funds will go toward two large projects: the 900 East Vine Street to Van Winkle project ($456,341) and the Hanauer Street extension ($1,617,808) in downtown Murray.