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SLC Council approves notable budget actions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 16, 2020

SLC Council approves notable budget actions

Process includes review of police budget, future practices

SALT LAKE CITY – This year’s extraordinary circumstances in Salt Lake City and around the world, regarding the pandemic and demands to address systemic racial injustice, led up to the City Council’s action on Tuesday night.

The Council-approved $326 million general fund budget concentrates on public safety spending and future practices, continues road repair and other basic essential services, plus support for people and businesses affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

2020 has provided an unusual backdrop for this year’s budget discussions – it was to be expected during the ongoing worldwide pandemic, and the local earthquake in March, however more recently the critical national and community conversations on equity and policing have rightly changed the focus and budget considerations. Unprecedented public engagement about racism and policing led to follow-up review by the Council of the police budget, structure, procedures, and broader policy actions.

“Our residents are calling on us to address racism and systemic inequities in Salt Lake City, and we hear them,” said Chris Wharton, Council Chair. “We started in this budget process with a review of police budgeting, policy and future practices. It doesn’t end here. Working in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office and the public, this review will be ongoing and widening as we look to root out inequity in all the City’s public processes.”

The Council voted for a number of notable budget actions in response to input from a broad spectrum of community members, including members of the public safety community.

The changes, which address accountability, transparency, and equity, will reduce the proposed Salt Lake City Police Department budget by $5.3 million: $2.8 for future conversations that will be informed by the City’s first-ever zero-based budgeting exercise, a newly created City Commission on Racial Equity in Policing, and $2.5 million in locating funding for the social worker program in a different department. It does not add any officers and implements a hiring freeze that does not contemplate replacing officers that leave or retire. It is overall 6.3% less than the Mayor’s Recommended Budget.

The Council has also directed staff to work with the City Administration and Attorney’s Office to identify enhancements to the Police Civilian Review Board ordinance. The budget also sets aside $1.67 million in funds to be invested in communities of color with input from the Commission, and the Council indicated it would look at federal funding for COVID relief and other City funding sources through that same lens.

Council Members approved the operating plan for fiscal year 2020-21 by unanimous vote. The seven-member Council reviewed the Mayor’s recommended proposal first publicly presented in early May. Council Members finalized a budget which anticipated revenue decreases due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and therefore delayed most planned new fees, held back non-contractual pay increases, and deployed an overall six-month hiring freeze already begun by the Mayor’s Office. The Capital City budget begins in July.

“This is a relatively flat and practical budget,” added Wharton. “We are hopeful for a quick recovery from the pandemic. But we must plan for flat spending in the year ahead as the economy unfolds from circumstances that have engulfed our City and State since March.”

Council Members believe money expected from the Federal government for pandemic expenses, and the City’s healthy general fund balance (the City’s ‘rainy day’ fund) will help with recovery in the months, perhaps years ahead. The City will review budget figures each month as sales tax data comes in, to get a better understanding of the financial picture in the year ahead.

Other highlights from the final City budget and police discussions include:

  • continued road repair for 155 lane miles this year using Funding Our Future dollars;
  • approved use of City funds for additional financial help in Housing Stability programs – such as rent and mortgage assistance – for people and businesses affected by the pandemic;
  • raises given for existing employee agreements, or as part of union negotiations;
  • an 18% increase in sewer rates (previously planned) to help pay for a new $700 million wastewater treatment facility that was already put into motion for construction last year. More info here: https://www.slc.gov/utilities/projects/wrf/
  • a delayed major buy in fleet replacement vehicles for the police department;
  • funds added to ensure body cameras for each police officer along with new technology.

At the Formal Meeting on June 16, the Council adopted the budgets for the City overall, including budgets for the Library, Airport, and Public Utilities (stormwater, sewer and water, and street lighting services). The Council adopted the budgets for the Redevelopment Agency and the Local Building Authority at its earlier June 9 meeting.

A Truth in Taxation Hearing, a public hearing required by the State, will be held in August and formally completes the annual budget process.  

ADDITIONAL COUNCIL DIRECTION:  After two hours of public comment, the Council directed staff to report back at the next Council meeting on what other communities are doing to address implicit bias and systemic racism, particularly as it relates to the budget, and to schedule a budget amendment for September to consider any additional budget adjustments that are identified in preliminary budget work by the Commission and through ideas from other cities.

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