West Jordan works to slim budget while adding more police officers
Jun 17, 2019 10:20AM
● By Erin Dixon
The West Jordan City Council hears details of tentative budget from Danyce Steck. (photo/Erin Dixon)
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
June is budget month. By state law, the official budget for the fiscal year (from July 1 to June 30) must be adopted by June 30. All city leaders go through all their income and expenses, making changes and adjustments with input from employees and council. If taxes need to be raised to support the city, then a truth in taxation meeting takes place in August of that new fiscal year.
West Jordan officials did not see the need to raise taxes this year.
“The budget was prepared without any kind of property tax increased at all,” Danyce Steck, finance director, said. “We anticipate revenues will sustain the budget for the next year under the current rate.”
The City’s General Fund amended budget for fiscal year 2018–19 totaled at $56,560,295. The new tentative budget 2019–20 reigns in the spending to $56,494,821.
City departments consolidated their spending. For example, in the past, public works would budget for its own emergency spending. Now that excess in its budget is put back into the general fund so that any department has more access to emergency funds.
“Public works really came to the table,” Steck said. “And it also gave all the departments some clarity when we brought all the budgets together. They were used to having them dispersed to so many divisions; they were able to bring those down.”
Councilmember Alan Anderson was pleased with the consolidation.
“I thank you for just putting it into reserves so that if there’s an emergency in any department, they can pull from it,” he said.
Not only did city leaders lower their anticipated spending, they were able to put the savings to work.
Last year, city officials raised taxes to hire five more police officers. This year, they will employ an additional three officers, with no increase.
“We added three full-time police officers, and we also added the funding from the Jordan School District for a part of the wages of those officers, as they will be assigned to be school resource officers,” Steck said. “And when school is out of session, they will come back into the community.”
Half of the wages for these new officers will come from the Jordan School District, since they will be spending much of their time in the schools.
The ending Fund Balance, which acts as the cities savings account, will rest near 15 percent of the total budget, which is equivalent to 55 days of running the city at full capacity with no income.
“I would rather have it be 20 percent, but that was about as good as we could get,” Steck said. “We cut as many things as we could to get to this level. The state recommends between 20 and 25 percent; they max out at 25 percent.”
Steck was recently appointed to West Jordan as finance director, and increasing the fund balance is one of her goals for the city.
“In consolidating divisions into departments, we were able to identify budget cost savings in both operations and personnel,” she said. “That savings coupled with savings from vacant positions and other increased operational efficiencies will be the resource we plan to use to build that financial sustainability into the budget.”
Resident Steve Jones was concerned about a portion of the budget.
“One of the things I would like to see as a citizen is Risk Management,” he said. “I’d really like to (see) a history what’s been expended in that risk management as well as broke down as far as insurances and litigations.”
“We have a risk management fund at $1.7 million,” Steck said. “It funds our risk manager staff and claims on the city. So we have budgeted for four of our deductibles for our large claims in case they do happen or occur, and we fund our workers comp and insurance.”
Further details were not available about claims against the city.
Strong Mayor Salary
Another point of discussion on the budget is the salary for the new strong mayor that will take office in January 2020. The council has been unable to assign a specific salary and will most likely revisit the topic in a budget amendment later this year. The current budget reserves $120,000 per year for the new mayor, but Councilmember Kayleen Whitelock is unhappy with this number.
“This is a service, not a job,” she said. “You’ve got to love what you’re doing and why you are doing it or you’re not going to represent our city. When the average citizen household income is only $72,000, I have a hard time saying that our mayor is worth $40,000 more.”