ST. GEORGE – The St. George City Council unanimously passed the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year during its Thursday night meeting. Before the budget passed City Manager Gary Esplin requested some modifications. A proposal for a temporary home for St. George Musical Theater and the upcoming expansion of SunTran bus service between St. George and Ivins were also discussed.
Originally the 2013-14 budget was set at $180 million overall, with a general fund of $48.7 million. Esplin recommended that $1 million be transferred from the capital fund to the general fund for various projects, bringing the capital fund to $49.7 million. Combined with money carried over from last year’s budget and transfers from other capital projects, $3 million was added to the overall budget, now totalling $183 million.
The 2013-14 budget anticipates a 3.6 percent increase in sales taxes and 3.9 percent increase in property taxes over the previous year.
Major capital projects outlined in the budget include 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.
Other projects Esplin mentioned during the meeting include installing offices for the Leisure Services Department in the old Fifth District Courthouse; putting money toward work related to the St. George Boulevard /Interstate 15 Exit 8 interchange project being overseen by the Utah Department of Transportation; and also devoting funds to the reclamation of a portion of the Black Hill scar.
Around $11.2 million has also been put in place for the Mall Drive Bridge project which will ultimately connect Mall Drive to 3000 East. The project was originally estimated be cost the city $15-$20 million. In his budget summary letter to the city council, Esplin counted this project as a “No. 1 priority.”
Esplin said he believes the budget reflects a “cautious optimism” that the local economy will continue to improve and St. George will continue to experience a measure of residential and financial growth.
The passage of the budget also sees the potential for raises for city employees – something which the city manager also recommends. Due to the recession of recent years, the City of St. George froze raises for city employees. As the economic climate continues to improve, Esplin recommended the city return to the market-based salary program it used before the economy tanked.
St. George Musical Theater pitches for the Opera House
Bruce Bennett, a member of the board for St. George Musical Theater, approached the city council with a proposal that the Musical Theater be allowed to use the St. George Opera House for a season of performances. Bennett said the idea of using the Opera House was to help “reboot” the City’s Musical Theater. The Opera House would be a short-term solution as the theater continues to work with a third-party over obtaining the old Sunroc building at 400 East and 150 North.
Bennett said it is hoped that revenue gained from a season of performances at the Opera House will help secure a more permanent location for the community theater group. He also cited communities large and small that had dedicated venues for community theater and the arts in general, and that St. George needed one of its own.
“As patrons, we want (an arts) facility in St. George,” a community member who came to support the Musical Theater group told the council.
Council members expressed general support for St. George Musical Theater and the potential for using the Opera House, but were also concerned over the loss of rental revenue from the building as the group would be using it for an estimated 130-160 days out of the year. Esplin also wondered if use of the Opera House would remain short-term, or turn into a long-term situation if the acquisition of the old Sunroc building didn’t pan out.
Along with the Opera House, St. George Musical Theater is asking the city to provide over $50,000 for modifications on the Opera House so it can be better utilized by the theater group. The city has already offered $75,000 toward the prospect of securing the old Sunroc building, though that deal has yet to come to fruition.
Discussion between the city and the theater group is likely to continue.
Expansion of SunTran bus service to Ivins
Larry Bulloch, public works director for St. George, discussed the potential expansion of SunTran bus service into Ivins. He shared points of an agreement to be set up between the two cities concerning the bus service. Ivins will pay St. George for the use of its SunTran service while St. George retains oversight of the service overall.
The council was in favor of the agreement, though Bulloch said the Ivins expansion was still a year or so away.
The SunTran expansion into Ivins will be covered in more detail in a forthcoming article.
- Proposed St. George budget 2013-14; city manager optimistic
- UDOT, Washington County cities exhibit plans for road, trail, bussing projects; Dixie Regional Transportation Expo 2013
- Study maps out potential expansion of SunTran service