Cedar City’s new budget takes effect soon; where’s the money going next fiscal year?

The Cedar City Fire Department's volunteers pose for a group photo in this file photo, Cedar City, Utah, April 12, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Cedar City Corporation, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Funding for new employees, staff raises and equipment, including over $1.7 million to purchase a new ladder truck for the fire department, are all part of Cedar City’s new budget, which will take effect July 1.

Two new officers take their oath in this file photo, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 14, 2022 | Photo courtesy of the Cedar City Police Department, Cedar City News

The budget discussion was fluid this year, with adjustments and discussion continuing into June when the City Council approved the final budget.

The 2023-24 fiscal year budget designated funds benefiting departments throughout the local government, including the police and fire departments, Parks and Recreation and the Cedar Area Transportation Department, known as CATS, among others.

The Cedar City police budget exceeds $7.8 million, with funds designated to hire a new patrol officer and a new assistant chief, as well as to allow them to change the vendor that provides their body cameras, vehicle cameras and other equipment, Finance Director Jason Norris told Cedar City News.

The Cedar City Fire Department also received a new water tender as seen here in this file photo, location unspecified, April 14, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Siddons-Martin Emergency Group, Cedar City News

The fire department’s budget was approved at nearly $3.6 million, including a big-ticket purchase of a new ladder truck for over $1.7 million, which received final approval last Wednesday after an official price was discussed on June 21. The truck was ordered in advance and will be paid for and delivered within approximately 43 months, Fire Chief Mike Phillips told the council.

Last year the city approved $1.5 million for three parks projects: the Iron West Sports Complex, a park near Fiddlers Canyon and one near Cross Hollow Road. These projects are still uncompleted, with the sports complex seeing the most movement thus far.

This year, over $661,000 was budgeted toward constructing the Fiddlers Canyon Trail extension across North Main Street, with about $275,000 from the city and over $341,000 from the Utah Department of Transportation, Norris said.

The city approved an additional $700,000 for the Industrial Road Trail project and $500,000 for the Fiddlers Canyon park project, Norris added.

One of the proposed design renderings for the Iron West Sports Complex, Cedar City, Utah | Image courtesy of Cedar City Corporation, Cedar City News

“Most of our projects are multiphase,” he said. “Those are all existing projects that we’re adding funding to.”

CATS received funding to purchase a new bus to the tune of $103,000 to replace an existing vehicle, as well as $150,000 in grant funds to complete a transit study, Norris said.

During the May 17 council meeting, Phillips reiterated from previous discussions that merit pay for employees should be included in the new budget in addition to the 5% cost of living adjustment they were set to receive.

Some council members and staff expressed concern that the investment, described by Phillips as being in the “neighborhood of about $400,000,” combined with the rest of the budgeted expenditures could put the city in a precarious position later.

A water tank sits on a hillside near Cedar Canyon trail in this file photo, Cedar City, Utah, July 20, 2022 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

To ensure the city’s financial stability, Norris, council members and staff discussed recent tax revenue numbers and proposed revisiting the idea of merit pay once more data became available.

The city tentatively approved over $14 million in water-related expenditures — not including other items in the water fund — and some projects cannot move forward until more information is available or other steps have been taken.

With that in mind, Phillips questioned why this funding, rather than merit pay, couldn’t be revisited later, “and (we’ll) make the adjustments then, allowing us a little more flexibility with some of our capital.”

“I’ll just be the Devil’s advocate once again,” he said. “Because I’m going to fight for the people and … I’ve said it time and time again, and I’ll say it: (city employees) are the lifeblood — the people that keep the city going.

This graphic shows a summary of major Cedar City budget items | Image by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News | Click to enlarge

“We invest a lot of money in these employees, in their work, in their computers and their equipment, and hopefully in their training and their morale and everything else, and we’ve got to be supportive of them.”

Ultimately, the council opted to fund both the budgeted water projects and merit pay for employees. As part of this adjustment, $4.6 million remained in the Capital Improvement Fund which would have otherwise been moved to the water fund, Norris told Cedar City News in May.

While the money is loosely earmarked for water-related projects, it could be used for other capital projects should the need arise, Norris said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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