Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski released two budget proposals to the Salt Lake City Council on Monday: one for the 2019 fiscal year and another based on the council approving a .5 percent sales-tax increase.
Biskupski’s recommendations for the general fund make up a $275.5-million budget, a 1 percent growth in revenue from the 2018 fiscal year. The budget proposes: a $250,000 one-time investment in new apparatus equipment for the SLC Fire Department; a one-time $360,000 investment in parks, trails and open space clean-up projects; a $30,000 increase in grants to the Arts Council; a $33,000 allocation to the YWCA to complete a domestic-violence study; and an allocation of $30,000 for expansion of the Bicycle Collective’s Goodwill Bikes program, which Biskupski said aids “those most in need” by providing them with bikes—thus helping them access employment opportunities.
The mayor’s proposed budget provides money for homeless services, a 3-percent raise for city employees and money to address their rising health-care costs, maintenance and repair projects for city infrastructure and funding for Operation Rio Grande.
Biskupski noted that the city’s “greatest opportunity for this fiscal year and for years beyond” lies with the “Funding Our Future” tax proposal, a decision that’ll be before the city council on Tuesday night. If approved, the .5-percent sales-tax hike would add five cents to every $10 spent, offering, in Biskupski’s words, “an opportunity for the Capitol City to control [its] own destiny.”
She also outlined several recommendations for spending the estimated $25 million generated this fiscal year by a sales-tax increase, and the estimated $33 million amassed each year thereafter. Biskupski’s proposal emphasized funding for affordable housing, transit, public safety, street repairs and clean air, allocating: $7.1 million for infrastructure projects like roadway, sidewalk and pavement repairs; $5.9 million to hire more police officers and staff members, purchase equipment and address issues in retention through salary and benefit adjustments; $4.1 million to address affordable-housing concerns, provide rent assistance and fund programs that help people transition from homelessness; and $5.3 million for public transit, which the mayor said will continue Salt Lake City’s “legacy of leading the region and the state in the future of transit.”
Of the money allocated to transit development, Biskupski proposed using $2.5 million to create and service a network of buses that would “connect major employment, education and residential areas throughout the city ... critical to developing the culture of transit in Salt Lake City.” The network would run along 2100 South, 900 South, 200 South and either 600 North or 1000 North, offering service about every 15 minutes between 5 a.m. and midnight from Monday through Saturday. Sunday service would also be available, Biskupski said, though she did not specify the hours of operation.
“All of this means shift workers and students participating in after-school activities will finally be able to rely on transit and travel between home and work, getting people out of their cars and clearing our air, which is our No. 1 goal,” Biskupski declared.
The investment in transit, she added, will help city residents embrace a “culture of transit,” helping lead to cleaner air.
“If adopted, the Funding Our Future proposal will place a great responsibility on me, sitting members of the council and future leaders,” Biskupski emphasized, noting that her office will soon launch an online tracking dashboard, allowing users to track her proposals, changes made by the council and the “the ultimate impact these new funds will have.”
Biskupski closed Monday’s news conference by thanking the city’s streets division for hosting the mayor’s staff and local reporters, noting that, if her proposals are approved, they won’t be able to host such events in future years, since they’ll be “too busy.”