2017-18 Budget Speech

On Tuesday, May 2, 2017, Mayor Jackie Biskupski presented her recommended 2017-2018 budget to the City Council. To read the entire FY 2017-18 recommended budget, please visit: http://www.slcgov.com/budget. Below is a transcript of Mayor Biskupski’s speech:

Tonight I am pleased to present to the City Council and the residents of Salt Lake City a balanced budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

The budget I present to you this evening is reflective of our shared priorities in

This budget was crafted with the same fiscally responsible policies we started last year.

These policies are aimed at ensuring a financially stable future for our City.

They also pay close attention to, and include debt service, and moving away from reliance on one-time sources of revenue for ongoing needs.

Over the next few years, Salt Lake City will be asking residents to take on additional costs to help repair or replace infrastructure that is desperately needed.

This ask must be coupled with a strong commitment from myself, the City Council, and every City employee, to be responsible stewards of the dollars residents place in our hands.

And, that we do all we can to ensure additional costs are reasonable and implemented gradually.

Last year, our Engineering and Transportation departments completed and presented to the Council a report which demonstrated the high level of need on our City’s roads.

And this team has already begun looking at various funding mechanisms to provide the financial resources necessary to maintain our roads.

Over the next year, the Administration will also complete a Capital Facilities Plan, to establish a complete picture of the City’s total infrastructure needs.

One option for funding these needs, which you will NOT SEE in this year’s budget, is additional general obligation bonding.

As I said previously, we must continue to strategically manage our City’s debt burden.

We are currently in a period of required increased payments to service our debt obligations.

I would like to commend Marina Scott, our City Treasurer and her team, who have, over the last year, taken advantage of opportunities to adjust our debt, freeing up some revenue for City operations and saving us money.

After careful consideration, and in consultation with our finance experts, I have determined the City will be in a much better financial place to consider a new general obligation bond next year, when existing bonds are scheduled to expire.

This consideration is influenced greatly by trying to avoid additional tax burden on City residents, which we can do, if we wait.

It is my hope that by working together, with robust public engagement, we can have both an infrastructure funding plan and a long-term project plan in place next year.

This year, through a new policy implemented for the Capital Improvement Fund, we have been able to reallocate $1.9 million dollars to shovel ready projects—with road and street repair projects receiving priority.

This brings the total funding allocated to roads, sidewalks, and streets to over $8 million dollars this year.

Our new policy focuses CIP funds on projects ready to begin—projects that have multiple phases to them or can be completed in two years.

We must also protect and support the community infrastructure that provides recreation opportunities to residents and visitors.

As such, I am recommending prioritizing $400,000 dollars to move the Rose Park Golf Course into the general fund.

This allows us to expand a community asset beloved by Rose Park residents.

While we are exploring ways to ensure Rose Park stays a golf course forever, by placing it in the general fund we have the opportunity to create additional amenities like trails and Jordan River activation.

By taking this step, we also begin a process of creating a northwest recreation area, by aligning the golf course with the nearby Regional Athletic Complex and Jordan River Disc Golf—both supported by the general fund.

I understand this is a large shift, but this move helps stabilize the golf fund, and more importantly preserves a golf course the Rose Park community loves.

The other major infrastructure project Salt Lake City will begin is the replacement of our City’s sewer treatment plant, with improvements and upgrades to our sewer collection system.

This project—being led by Lara Briefer, our Public Utilities Director —allows Salt Lake City to be prepared for future economic and population growth.

It also helps further our environmental goals by ensuring our treatment process meets the highest possible clean standards.

This is a once-in-a-generation project.

Our current treatment plant is over 50 years old, and the expectation would be for the new plant to serve Salt Lake City for another 50 years.

In order to responsibly pay for this multi-year project, Public Utilities has proposed a 5-year rate plan to increase sewer rates as gradually as possible.

Our intent is to upgrade this critical infrastructure, while at the same time limiting the impact on residents.

It should be noted, all funds gathered by our City’s Public Utility Department through water, lighting, and sewer bills are spent ONLY on those critical pieces of infrastructure.

We are lucky to get high quality service at reasonable rates. Even after the increases, estimated bills in Salt Lake City will be lower than most cities in our area.

I would also ask the Council to consider a similar phased in approach to the Library’s proposed property tax increase.

While I am fully supportive of the library’s plans and appreciate the critical service they provide, I do have concerns regarding the tax coming all at once.

In order to be mindful to residents—especially to our low-income families—we must look at all fees and increases in a holistic way.

For our part, the City will freeze any increases this year on street lighting and refuse, to help ease the impact or other increases.

As we invest in our City’s infrastructure and services we continue to focus on our sustainability goals.

Last summer, we signed a historic resolution to completely transition our City’s energy needs to renewables by 2032 and to reduce our carbon output by 80% by 2040.

We are already meeting pivotal benchmarks toward reaching these goals.

To keep the momentum going, I am requesting $100,000 from the landfill distribution fund to help cover costs of engineering, permitting, and financial analysis required as we partner with Rocky Mountain Power to build a large solar farm.

Our timeline for the partnership with Rocky Mountain Power starts with working through regulatory requirements and permitting through this year.

The solar farm project will be put out to bid in mid-2018, and we will partner with Rocky Mountain Power to determine the size and location of the farm.

As a City we have a great opportunity to make a substantial impact on climate change, and we will continue chipping away at the issue.

We know that energy efficient homes and businesses enjoy lower utility costs while also contributing to a more sustainable environment.

But, we also know for too many families, the initial costs of adding solar or other energy upgrades are simply out of financial reach.

This is why I am requesting $200,000, also from the landfill distribution fund, to support access to energy efficiency technology for low-income households.

This initiative would include a focus on lower-income households, which often lack access to more efficient technologies.

It is important for our Sustainability team to engage the broader community in important steps toward cutting pollution.

With this budget allocation, we can bring equity and opportunity to our energy efficiency efforts.

Creating equity and opportunity are also at the core of our efforts to move people from homelessness to housing, while mitigating the current issues surrounding our City’s homeless shelter.

In the coming year, the City will target more than $2.1 million dollars to assist agencies with service needs and provide mitigation efforts.

To better manage these dollars, we have consolidated homeless resources under the direction of Housing and Neighborhood Development.

We have also increased ongoing funding by approximately $1.5 million dollars, in many instances moving items previously paid for using one-time or emergency funding into ongoing revenue streams.

These needs include the emergency winter shelter at St. Vincent’s and winter motel vouchers.

With the scheduled closure of the Rio Grande shelter slated for 2019, it is prudent and responsible to commit today as a City.

I have also set aside funding for infrastructure changes on 500 West, particularly to address the parking needs of the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Community Connection Center and new centralized sub-station on 500 West.

My teams—with the help of community stakeholders—have been exploring the best options in the area, as well as looking at how we can utilize this critical need to disrupt criminal behaviors in the area.

This budget also increases funding for the Green Team Program—which employs and teaches garden skills to women experiencing homelessness at a community garden on 600 West.

This increased funding of $50,000 will be set aside to pay the salary of a professional gardener from Wasatch Community Gardens, who has been instrumental in literally helping this program GROW.

Last September, I attended the opening of this garden and had the opportunity to meet some of the women in the program, along with those helping them succeed.

What struck me most at this opening, was the level of community support for efforts to help raise people out of homelessness and to find new and compassionate solutions.

The Green Team was the result of cooperation between Salt Lake City, the RDA, Wasatch Community Gardens, Advantage Services, and the Downtown Alliance.

Everyone came together to make this happen—and it’s working.

We need to celebrate the non-profits like Wasatch Community Gardens, local businesses and organizations like the Downtown Alliance, which choose to be a part of the solution and are getting their hands dirty.

We need everyone to help make change, and to help others.

I like to say re-think your thinking.

We saw this last year with the City and County’s efforts in the creation of Operation Diversion.

This was a change in thinking. A change in how we operate.

For the first time, we paired law enforcement accountability, with the opportunity for treatment.

Operation Diversion is a successful model, and with commitment from the County to match the $685,000 dollars I have prioritized in this year’s budget, it will continue.

Efforts and funding from the State and Sheriff will ensure we have the jail capacity to make it a continued success.

Through the efforts of SLCPD’s innovative Community Correction Center, elements of Operation Diversion have continues all year, resulting in even greater successes.

The treatment beds made available during Operation Diversion were kept full by the social workers at the CCC—who were able to engage 104 people in treatment with a waiting list of 115 people.

This year’s budget includes an additional $220,000 for the CCC—providing all necessary funding for this program to be fully staffed.

Our willingness to continue exploring new ideas, and to fund these initiatives will undoubtedly help solve some immediate concerns as we prepare for transition in 2019.

Part of that preparation includes housing.

$125,000 dollars will go to support the twenty highest users of City resources and help them transition from homelessness to housing.

I have also allocated $3,000,000 in the RDA budget toward affordable housing initiatives. This funding adds to the pool of money created by the City Council last year.

I have also created the Blue Ribbon Commission, a team of experts who have been working diligently to develop a plan and funding strategy to bring critical affordable housing online over the next two years.

Tonight I am also presenting the budget for Redevelopment Agency.

The budget is being presented with the general budget as part of our effort to more closely align the RDA’s priorities with those of our City.

These changes are part of our efforts to create a strong Economic Development Department.

As a result of this change, for the first year, the RDA budget has been prepared in full cooperation with our City’s budget and finance teams—creating a much more transparent budget.

Along with the $3.2 million dollars directed toward affordable housing projects, we have also included funding to move forward current projects and explore new project areas.

The RDA budget includes more than $1 million dollars for the critical Station Center Project; and

$600,000 for pocket parks, plazas and public space Downtown.

We are also proposing $200,000 in seed money to move forward the exploration of new project areas, including the State Street Project, which is an area of true opportunity for Salt Lake City.

Over the last year, we have taken important strides to change how the RDA operates.

Changes I believe have made the agency stronger and more effective.

With this year’s budget in place, and the additional funds from last year, it is time for us to move forward NOW, on the projects we have committed to.

I know there is a desire by the RDA Board to consider bonding this year.

I look forward to a future conversation on this issue with the Board, however at this time, I am not convinced this is a financially responsible or feasible option to take.

Through a budget amendment we have presented a path forward to preserve the $21 million dollar affordable housing fund—which is a priority for all of us.

Given the opportunity, and most importantly the release of funding by the RDA Board, staff is prepared to begin the projects that were stalled last year.

I am concerned that bonding would continue to slow critical projects, at a time when we have enough cash on hand to aggressively move forward with consideration to staffing and construction capacity.

Also, the RDA does not have the ability to bond in a meaningful way and would rely on the general fund to guarantee the size of bond that I understand you are seeking—adding further debt to the City.

Let’s work together to use the funds we have today in a strategic and effective manner, before we agree to taking on more debt as a City and agency.

As leaders of this City, one of our greatest responsibilities is to ensure the well being of our employees.

Last year, I introduced a new family leave policy, which provides up to six weeks of paid leave to new parents—regardless of gender, family make-up, or length of service to the City.

Extensive research provides overwhelming support that paid parental leave results in healthier outcomes for employees and their families.

This is a truth we are already seeing with our new policy.

Salt Lake City Firefighter Tom Maple and his wife welcomed their first child, William, in February.

Tom, who is assigned to Station 5 in the 9th and 9th neighborhood, was planning on using just a couple of weeks vacation after his wife gave birth.

But when he heard about the new policy, his plans changed.

Because of the policy, Tom was able to be there for his wife when she needed him most, and he was able to bond with his son.

He was also able to be there for himself as well.

Like many new parents, Tom described his first few weeks of fatherhood as a pretty steep learning curve.

There were new routines, new sleeping schedules, and new responsibilities.

Looking back on the experience, Tom is incredibly grateful for the additional time off.

Not only did it allow him time to bond with his son, but he was able to go back to the station much less distracted, and even a little relaxed.

I am happy to report that little William is growing like crazy, and has even been to the firehouse to meet his Dad’s crew.

After analyzing the first few months of this policy, I am budgeting $170,000 to cover the additional costs the City may incur to provide this benefit for the coming year.

These additional costs are related to overtime or other expenses incurred by those in positions that require constant coverage—typically our emergency services personnel like Tom.

While we will continue to monitor this new policy, I strongly believe the investment we are making will benefit—not only those who serve the City like Tom—but our community as a whole.

Maintaining a strong, productive, and empowered workforce continues to be one of my top priorities as Mayor.

Last year we began a citywide Employee University to provide City employees with thousands of trainings and educational opportunities.

I have once again prioritized funding to allow Human Resources to continue to build on this effort, focusing on new trainings in the area of Inclusion, Cultural Awareness, and Customer Service.

My budget recommendation also provides for base salary increase of one to two percent for those employees not scheduled to receive a negotiated increase.

As I end tonight I’d like to highlight an area of concern and ask residents for their help.

The Federal Administration recently proposed budget details, which include severe cuts across most federal agencies.

Of greatest concern was the reported $6 billion dollars in spending cuts for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Those dramatic cuts would entirely eliminate a vital funding source for Salt Lake City: The Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG.

Cities have historically relied upon federal funding programs to play a role in improving quality of life, and CDBG has proven successful across the country for decades.

It is a flexible source of funds that cities can use to build and renew infrastructure in our neighborhoods.

We use it to build sidewalks, make repairs on houses, and to maintain important programing.

I want to take this moment to recognize and thank the work of our CDBG advisory board.

And I would also like to recognize and thank the City Council, for approving our my recommendations for CDBG funding this year.

But now the future of this critical funding is in jeopardy.

As Mayor, I think of the children, families, and entire neighborhoods that will suffer.

Just over a month ago, I toured a home owned by a woman with cerebral palsy.

In a wheelchair, she was unable to enjoy the full function of her home, and as a first-time home-buyer on a fixed income she was unable to make necessary modifications on her own.

Thankfully, a team from the City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development connected with her, and arranged to make the necessary improvements to her home, utilizing funds the City receives through CDBG.

I watched as construction crews installed new flooring to prevent her from falling, a new kitchen unit that provided her access to her stove and oven for the first time, and a safer shower and toilet for better mobility.

They were able to drastically improve her quality of life, by simply showing up and helping out.

I have recently joined with mayors from across the country to stand united against these proposed budget cuts.

I have also strongly urged our Congressional delegation to consider the local-level consequences of the loss of CDBG funding.

And now we need the community to help us protect this funding.

Please reach out to our Congressional delegation and tell them to preserve HUD funding, especially CDBG.

This is your money. Help keep it in your community.

In closing I want to express my appreciation to all of those who worked tirelessly to complete this budget recommendation, especially our new Director of Financial Operations, Mary Beth Thompson and her team.

Every year we come together to assign a real value to our priorities—evaluating projects and services—every one worth funding.

This isn’t easy so I appreciate your diligence in working to ensure we are accurate and fiscally responsible, while promoting equity, creating opportunity, and fostering hope in Salt Lake City.

I also want to express my appreciation to the Council as you begin your work in this budget process.

I strongly believe the budget before you represents our shared values and priorities.

My door remains open to each of you. If you have additional questions, please let me know.

Thank you for your time and attention to my recommendations at this evening’s meeting.

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