SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Erin Mendenhall presented her proposed budget to the city council, proposing a small property tax increase but also expanded spending to address housing and homelessness, public safety and lending her support to a bond for expanded green space.
In her address Tuesday night, Mayor Mendenhall noted that Salt Lake City is growing both as a community and a business core (the population is over 200,000 residents and more than 360,000 on weekdays with commuters who come in to work).
"That takes a toll on our roads, increased calls for service to our 911, police and fire departments, and additional challenges to our environment," the mayor said.
Her speech noted the growth in economy, population and inflation and the increased demand for city services.
"Despite the crises of the past couple years, the highest priorities for our residents have remained quite constant. They want us to invest in affordable housing programs, expand opportunities to improve air and water quality and increase investment in parks and public lands," she said.
The mayor pledged $21 million toward deeply affordable housing, creating 1,000 new units within the city and offered to continue funding outreach programs for people experiencing homelessness. She proposed increased spending for utilities assistance for low-income residents. Public safety employees will see pay increases, including hiring more medical response teams (but overall crime in the city has declined 15%, she said).
The mayor lent her support to an $80 million green space bond to be placed before voters this fall, pointing out the increased demand for parks and open space since the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In this proposal, you’ll see major investments for the Glendale Regional Park, the Jordan River Corridor, Liberty Park, Allen Park, Folsom Trail, Fleet Block, and seven other neighborhood parks," she said. "These projects will work to improve our air quality and water quality by increasing biodiversity and planting more trees and vegetation. With this voter-approved investment, we’ll be able to answer our residents’ call for more access, connectivity, and ongoing care to our treasured green spaces."
Mayor Mendenhall proposed a 4.9% property tax increase across the city because of inflation. It is the first time property taxes have increased in Salt Lake City since 2014 and is about $10 a month on a median-priced home, the mayor said. While the city received a lot of federal COVID stimulus dollars, it has not kept up with demand for services.
"Inflation, increased labor costs, and most notably — the stunning increase in demand for city services — has led me through careful consideration to request your support for a property tax increase, equivalent to about $10 dollars on the median-priced home in Salt Lake City," she said.
The mayor acknowledged tax increases are never popular, especially when the city is also seeing a spike in sales tax revenues.
"Though our revenues have increased, they have not risen at the same pace as the demands have for our city," she told the council. "One-time federal funding and recently increased sales tax receipts have been critical, but they don’t provide the stable source of funding we will need as we project into the future. This moderate tax increase now will prevent us from being faced with needing to do a larger increase down the road."
The mayor proposes a budget, but the council will pass one. Public hearings are scheduled later this month and next on the $424 million budget.