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SLCo mayor proposes free rec center passes, eliminating library late fees for kids

Posted at 10:42 AM, Oct 24, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson is proposing free recreation center passes for kids as a way to get off their screens and active in their communities.

During her annual budget presentation to the Salt Lake County Council, the mayor proposed the free entry for the well being of children. She noted increasing rates of children suffering from anxiety and depression.

"At a time when our kids are too often consumed by their cell phones and iPads, our rec centers are places where these young people can come explore new hobbies, discover new passions and build community," Mayor Wilson said. "Many of these kids come multiple times a week, so our staff tends to see a lot of familiar faces. In fact, a few of the kids that come in most regularly have been known to go on to get part-time jobs at the center, learning life skills and earning additional income."

Mayor Wilson said for many Salt Lake County children, they simply can't afford a rec center pass.

"It's a reality in Salt Lake County that some families must choose between paying rent, putting food on the table and paying medical expenses," she said.

The mayor proposed dipping into revenues for the $2 million request and told the council she had support from the recreation center's advisory board. Her announcement got applause from the crowd gathered in the Salt Lake County Council chambers for her budget presentation.

The mayor also proposed eliminating late fees at county-run libraries for children, which she estimated will cost roughly $115,000 a year.

"While these fees may be relatively small, it's important not to penalize a child for keeping a book a bit longer," she said. "I am certain this program will help eliminate obstacles that stand in the way of children engaging their minds through our award-winning libraries."

The initiatives come at a time when Utah's most populous county is facing significant budget declines. Mayor Wilson instituted a hiring freeze and eliminated dozens of vacant positions. She proposed cutting travel and personnel expenditures.

The mayor, however, offered to fund a salary increase with the most money going to the lowest pay grade county employees. She also said that while Salt Lake County is facing 10% increases in health care costs, it would not be passed along to employees.

Mayor Wilson's proposed budget is $1.9 billion.