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Murray Journal

City coffers up, projects slated

Jun 07, 2021 12:48PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Among Murray City’s budget requests is a $742,000 fire engine replacement. (Photo courtesy of Murray City)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Mayor Blair Camp presented his budget address at the April 20 city council meeting, announcing improved revenues for Murray City’s general fund. Murray’s current fiscal year is forecasted to end $12 million in the black due to higher-than-expected sales tax and COVID-19 stimulus funds. 

Comparatively, the budget year ends on a far more positive note than when it began amid the pandemic. The city lost significant revenue due to decreased sales tax, and city departments instituted severe budget constraints, including freezing several large projects, like the Murray Theater renovation.

In FY2021, the city received $2,913,244 from the Federal CARES ACT to reimburse qualified expenses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, CARES ACT funding offsets a $2.7 million use of fund balance that would have been required in FY2022 to balance the proposed budget. Without CARES ACT funding, the city would have been obligated to consider a 3%-6% property tax increase or a reduction in services. 

“There is no property tax increase proposed in this budget,” Camp said.

According to Camp, one of the challenges facing Murray City is that over 30% of its properties are owned by governments or nonprofit organizations that are tax exempt. By law, Murray’s budget must balance. If there is a deficit due to lost revenue, the city transfers a dividend from its Enterprise Funds to the General Fund. If the city did not do this, property taxes would have to increase, or services would have to be reduced. The most significant contributor to the Enterprise Fund is Murray Power. 

“Property owners in Murray should note that only 18%-20% of their annual tax assessment, depending on which school district the property resides, goes to Murray City. Most of the property taxes paid by Murray property owners go to the school districts, Salt Lake County government, or other special districts,” Camp said.

Most noteworthy of the mayor’s requests are a new fire engine and police cars. The police department rotates on a minimum of 12 police cars a year, on a seven-year rotation, with the expected cost next fiscal year totaling $480,000. By comparison, one fire truck costs $742,000, and it has been preordered.

Murray Park may receive an upgraded playground by Parkside Elementary. The current equipment is over 20 years old, and parts are no longer available for repairs. The total cost of the playground is forecasted at $220,000. 

As for buildings, the mayor proposes stashing $500,000 to fund the eventual remodel of the Murray Theater. Currently, the city has saved $1,256,888 toward the upgrade. Salt Lake County funding to support the theater’s renovation evaporated during the pandemic, causing the city to postpone the project indefinitely. 

Hoping to open another phase of the Murray City Center, Camp proposes moving forward with renovation work on the Murray Mansion. The mansion will serve as the new home of the Murray Museum, currently in City Hall, and the Murray Arts and History Department staff. Phase I of the renovation would focus on exterior repairs to the structure, built in 1899. Phase II will focus on interior preparation for the new museum, with total costs forecasted at over $1,000,000.

Big road project requests include $500,000 on Commerce Road to accommodate the Bonnyview Apartments, proposed for the former Bonnyview Elementary School site. Also earmarked are $450,000 in matching funds for the Vine Street project, completing road and storm drain construction between Van Winkle and 1300 East. Revenue for transportation projects will increase by $1 million as a result of new legislation.

Camp proposes a 3% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all city employees. Last year, there was no COLA included in the budget. The mayor also requests three new full-time employees to assist with increased development within the city and emerging law enforcement trends. These positions are a civil engineer, a senior planner, and an additional job in police administration.

“The employees who provide our city services make up the largest expense of the General Fund at 64%. Attracting, training, and retaining employees remains a high priority in this budget. At my request, department heads have kept operational costs unchanged with some line-item amounts restored to pre-pandemic levels,” Camp said.