Washington City passes 2020 budget packed with capital projects

Washington City Councilman Daniel Cluff acts as the city's mayor pro tem during a meeting of the Washington City Council that saw the adoption of the city's 2020-21 budget, Washington City, Utah, June 10, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — The Washington City Council adopted a $76 million budget for the city’s 2020-21 fiscal year last week. While there is an anticipated shortfall in parts of the budget due to the economic slump created by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials remain optimistic for the coming year.

L-R: Washington City Council members Kress Staheli and Doug Ward during the council’s June 10 meeting in Washington City, Utah, June 10, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“This is has been a process, a great process, where there has been a lot of dialogue as we’ve considered the timing and tried to forecast and control expenses and put a budget together,” Washington City Councilman Kress Staheli said during the council’s June 10 meeting prior to the council voting on the budget.

The total for the coming year is projected to be $76.7 million overall and lists a number of public works and infrastructure projects that are a part of the city’s five-year capital projects plan.

Due to funds that were already set aside for capital projects in the coming year, City Manager Roger Carter said they will be the least impacted by the drop in tax revenues the budget had to account for due to the pandemic.

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 around $21.1 million. This estimate was originally $2 million higher before the pandemic hit and reduced economic output across the board, Carter said.

“We are going to take a hit,” he said. “We also know we’re going to take a hit at the end of this year’s (2019-20) budget.”

A breakdown of the 2020-21 Washington City budget | Courtesy of Washington City, St. George News | Click to enlarge

While the city has yet to receive sales tax information for April and May, Carter said the economic report for March was both good and bad. The last half of the month was a disaster for tax revenue generation, as that is when the business shutdowns began, he said. However, the first half of March had performed extremely well and outdid the previous year’s numbers by $140,000.

Overall, Carter said the city estimates the economic impact of the pandemic will create a $6.5 million shortfall in growth-related revenues funding the 2020 budget. He also detailed how certain revenue-generating items had been hit.

General sales tax revenues dropped 10%, followed by highway-related taxes that also dropped 10%. Transient room taxes – the taxes generated by hotel and short term rental stays – dropped by 37%, while taxes generated for road maintenance were down 17%. Plan check fees are also down at 34%, and RAP tax revenues are expected to drop by 14%.

“The tax side of things is going to be very interesting this year,” Carter said, adding that the 2020 budget has been adjusted accordingly to account for the diminished revenue, and where needed, certain funds have been reinforced by the previous year’s budget balance.

Apartments being built in Washington City, Feb. 18. 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Fees from building permits also went down at around 21%, Carter added. In his letter to the mayor and City Council introducing the 2020-21 budget, he noted that residential building in the city was expected to slow.

The city expects to issue 410 residential building permits this year as opposed to the 661 originally projected. However, this still represents a population growth level of 4.5%, according to the budget letter.

According to Census.gov, the population of Washington City is nearly 29,200.

“We are still anticipating some commercial growth in 2021 but with lowered expectation due to the impact of the pandemic,” Carter wrote in the letter.

The capital projects of note Washington City will be pursuing during the 2020-21 fiscal year include the following:

  • Mill Creek/Elephant Arch trailhead ($200,000)
  • Canal Trail land acquisition and design ($250,000)
  • Various projects related to Washington Dam Road ($3.9 million combined)
  • Highway maintenance ($1 million)
  • 500,000 gallon reserve water tank and Long Valley water tank ($788,000 and $2.7 million respectively)
  • Development of water wells in the Grapevine area ($3.2 million)

Additional street projects include the installation of medians on Telegraph Street between the Green Springs intersection and 400 East ($180,000) and the 3560 South connector to the Southern Parkway ($1.25 million).

In traffic waiting at the Green Springs-Telegrpaph Street intersection, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 10, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While the city will handle the latter project and the subsequent traffic signal on 3650 South, developers in the area will be paying for the construction of the road proper, Carter said.

The capital projects are listed with various levels of priority within Carter’s letter, with some likely to start in the coming fiscal year while others may wait for additional funding.

Washington City’s capital project’s budget for 2020-21 is estimated to be $7.1 million.

“This is a good budget,” Staheli said. “Many of the projects are related to water and power and sewer and roads and the things a city ought to be about.”

Over half of the remaining budget – $44.1 million – is made up of the city’s enterprise funds, which are sometimes referred to as proprietary funds. These 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 city funds include special revenue, debt services and internal services and make up the budget’s remaining $4.3 million.

The City Council unanimously approved the budget during its June 10 meeting following a brief public comment hearing in which the only comment submitted was for an entirely separate issue.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!