Friday, July 28, 2006

Davis County Clipper: Commissioners battle funding woes, competing needs

FARMINGTON — Needs of a soon-to-be burgeoning senior citizen population in the county and for a quicker fix to flood control facilities have been big in county news the past couple of weeks. However, Davis County Commissioners emphasized that no final decisions have been made on which of many areas of need will be targeted. A tax hike has not been agreed upon by the trio or a two-member majority, either. “We have (the) two departments that have come forth with some issues that are very important,” Commission Chairman Carol Page said of aging services and flood control handled by public works. “There will be other opportunities for further discussion,” said Commissioner Dannie McConkie. “There needs to be some early discussion (about needs prompting a possible tax hike) so we don’t have the same problems we had three years ago.”

He was referring to discussions at the end of 2002 where initially a 138 percent tax hike was proposed, causing an uproar via 1,000 people packing a courthouse hearing and hundreds of e-mails and phone calls received opposing any such action.

The tax hike that later passed was pared to 24 percent.

A $35 tax hike that will be on November 2007 tax bills has been widely publicized as paying for personnel and maintenance costs for the $24 million jail expansion. The construction itself is being paid off by a bond, which won’t mean a property tax hike.

“We even gave an extra year (to taxpayers) before that went down,” Page said. It was originally due to be imposed this year.

“Yet we got blamed for $4 million in savings, in cutting last year’s budget to make that happen,” she said of paring the county general fund budget to keep costs down.

“We cut a lot of departments (on staffing and other requests),” Page said. “It was the equivalent of a $4 million tax savings to residents.”

“There are always going to be more needs than we can fund,” Commissioner Alan Hansen said. “You always have more need that what is available to care for those needs.”

“We asked them (department heads) to come back the last five years, put hiring freezes on, asked them to reduce their budgets year after year. How long can you do that? Everything costs more, salaries, utilities, paper, etc.,” Page continued.

“We’re living in a changing world,” McConkie said. “Building security and technology” were two he mentioned.

“We’re being required to do technical upgrades so we can do business with other governments. We want our people to have the best equipment because that makes them more efficient.

“We’ve always fretted about security,” especially post-911, he said. “Any government building could be a target in 10 years. The feds are saying to watch your water supply, the health department is looking at that, plus a possible pandemic of flu, West Nile, etc. There’s never an end to the issues we could put money into.”

“We’re going to fill out at 500,000 people in 25 years. It’s going to happen,” McConkie said.

“We’d like our EOC (emergency operations center) totally prepared, operational for when it (whatever disaster) hits. We have to be prepared for it, could it be an earthquake, it could be anything,” Hansen said.

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