Road projects make up almost half of nearly $20 million increase to Washington City budget

Composite image created by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington City Council adopted a $76 million preliminary budget for the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year last week. The proposed budget is a nearly $20 million increase over last year’s budget due to a number of capital projects slated to get underway during the new budget year.

The Washington City Council, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 7, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Last year’s budget was $57 million, yet Washington City Manager Roger Carter told St. George News the 2019-20 budget is packed with a plethora of road projects and other items that will utilize funds that have accrued to the point they can now be used for those projects.

“Road projects are the primary single largest expenditure in capital projects this year,” he said.

The capital projects portion of the budget covers items related to infrastructure improvement within the city. The amount projected for the capital projects portion of the fund is $13 million.

Among the capital projects of note Washington City will be pursuing during the 2019-20 fiscal year include continuing work on the Hellhole trailhead ($500,000), Merrill Road ($2.5 million), the Warm Springs Park and trailhead ($1 million), a pressurized irrigation master plan ($90,000), the rebuilding of the Staheli electrical substation ($2.5 million) and a number of other projects.

Each of the above items is also outlined in the city’s five-year capital projects plan.

The Boilers, also known as Warm Springs, Washington City, Utah, May 24, 2016 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Some of the city’s one-time funding money is also being put away for future projects and needs, such as $150,000 to the city’s Leisure Services Department for cemetery expansion and another $150,000 to be used for the future purchase of a ladder truck for the city fire department.

The city’s general fund, which is largely used to fund city services such as public safety, parks and recreation, land development and city administration is projected to be $20 million in the following fiscal year.

A majority of the revenue in the city’s general fund comes from sales and property taxes, both of which have increased over the years thanks to the growth Washington City has enjoyed along with the rest of the county.

“We added around 2,000 residents last year,” Carter said.

According to the US Census Bureau, Washington City’s population is estimated to be over 26,000.

“We have strong growth,” Carter said. However, he also noted there are signs that growth in Washington County overall may have peaked. Despite this, he said the city expects to see continuing commercial growth and development in the coming year.

The newly framed Farmhouse Welcome Center at Stucki Farms ready for at traditional “topping out” ceremony, Washington City, Utah, March 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

It is projected that the city will issue nearly 500 residential building permits for the year, which is down from the 2019 year-end estimate of 617. This nonetheless represents a possible 4.5% population growth, Carter stated in a budget summary letter he wrote for the City Council.

While the city anticipates seeing a slowdown in the housing market, officials expect development to continue, according to a budget summary.

“We have pockets of the city that are really starting to develop,” Carter said, citing the land around Interstate 15’s Exit 13 as an example. Where a lone Maverik gas station once sat amid dirt lots, new development has recently sprung up.

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Also slated to increase under the budget is a part of the city’s workforce, as well as employee pay.

The city anticipates hiring two new police officers – a sergeant and a new school resource officer – as well as other full-time positions related to the city’s streets department, building maintenance, cemetery, finance and other area areas.

City employees will also see wage increases of between 2.5-6.25% based on their annual performance evaluations, according to the budget summary. The amount being budgeted for the proposed increases is $208,000.

At the Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park, Washington City, Utah, Oct. 30, 2015 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While there are no new taxes recommended in the 2019-20 year, there are a number of proposed increases, Carter said, including a 3% surcharge fee to recoup merchant service fees, service fees related to fire department specialty services and a business license application fee. There is also a proposal that the telecommunications tax to fund emergency services and franchise tax for road support be increased by 0.5%.

Around half of the proposed budget – $38 million – is dedicated to enterprise funds (also called proprietary funds).

Those funds are dedicated to city departments that can be thought of as being run in a businesslike manner, such as the water and power departments.

Other funds include RAP tax revenue (taxes generated countywide to benefit recreation, arts and parks), debt service and other special funds that together account for around $4.7 million.

The proposed $76 million budget is available for pubic review online at the Washington City website.

Physical copies of the budget are located at the Washington City Offices, 111 N. 100 East, and the Washington City branch of the Washington County Library, 220 N. 300 East.

The Washington City Council is slated to adopt the 2019-20 city budget in its June 26 meeting.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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