ST. GEORGE – Currently the St. George City Council is reviewing the proposed city budget for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year. A percentage increase in funds is anticipated for the coming year, and is considered a sign of continued economic improvement on the local level in the wake of the Great Recession.
“The economy’s coming back,” St. George City Manager Gary Esplin said during a May 2 city council meeting on the proposed budget.
Esplin pointed to a 4 percent increase to the city’s proposed general fund for the 2013-14 year. The general fund, approximately $48.7 million, compared to $45 million for 2012-13, is applied to the departments of general government, public safety, community development, public works, and leisure services.
Sales tax and property tax make up the largest revenue contributors to the general fund. Sales taxes are estimated to bring in $14.5 million, a 3.6 percent increase over the previous year. It is also estimated that property taxes will increase by 3.9 percent over the last year, bringing a possible $8 million to the general fund.
Esplin said the potential increases will be gained without raising local tax rates.
In a work meeting the St. George City Council held on Thursday, Esplin and the council discussed the proposed budget in more detail.
Esplin said that during the economic boom sales tax brought in as much as $16 million to the city. When everything tanked, revenue fell to $12 million. In 2012 that rebounded to $14 million.
“Our local economy is doing considerably better,” Esplin said.
Developers also continue to approach the city council for approval of preliminary plans for new subdivisions, or to seek zoning changes that may be necessary to make way for the next phase of a preexisting one.
Though facets of the construction industry are not rebounding as fast as other industries, building permits are gradually increasing. Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2013, the city had issued 176 building permits for single-family dwellings. This is 20 more than there were this time last year.
A total of 53 permits were issued for the same period in 2011 and 67 were issued for 2010.
“It’s definitely trending up,” Mortensen said. “It’s not explosive, but it’s a nice healthy growth.”
Among the recommendations Esplin made for the upcoming budget is a return to the market-based salary program for city employees. The program was discontinued due to the economic crash, yet may be reinstated in the coming year. Any changes made by returning to the program will likely take effect on Dec. 1, 2013.
Esplin made recommendations for future expenditures for the capital project fund as well. Among them are a drainage backbone system/trail in the Washington Fields area; various road improvement projects that include the Southern Corridor, 3000 East, Indian Hills Drive and Little Valley Road; an erosion project with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Sunbrook area; and the pavement management program. The combined expenditure for these projects is estimated to be over $10 million.
While no funds are currently dedicated to the project, Esplin said he believes “the No. 1 priority for transportation improvement is the construction of the Mall Drive bridge. I believe with participation from adjacent property owners and a refinance of a road bond, this may be a reality for fiscal year 2013-2014.”
The overall budget for the City of St. George is $180 million.
For a full treatment of the recommendations made in the proposed budget, St. George residents are encouraged to review Esplin’s summary of budget expenditures, which can be found here.
“This budget is the 38th (budget) I have submitted for consideration by the Mayor and City Council and reflects the positive position that the local economy is improving,” Esplin wrote in the proposed budget.
Two public hearings will be held concerning the proposed budget: June 6 and June 22 at 5 p.m., at the St. George City Hall, 175 East 200 North.
St. George residents can review a hard copy of the proposed budget at the St. George City Hall, or online on the city website, or click on the resources link below for a full PDF file of the same.
The 2013-14 budget will be voted on by the St. George City Council on June 22.
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