One of the most important parts of being an elected official is acting as a steward of taxpayer dollars. Residents entrust those who run the government to judiciously use their tax dollars to perform essential functions for the community, and as such residents expect that every dollar spent by the government will be carefully scrutinized.
That’s why I take my role on the County Council so seriously, especially when it comes to budget season. Each fall the Mayor presents a proposed Salt Lake County budget to the Council, and in the subsequent weeks Council members have the opportunity to review all the new budgetary requests as well as any and all ongoing expenditures.
As listened to constituents, and worked with some of my colleagues and Council staff to comb through the budget, I felt an added urgency to find efficiencies given the fact that the Mayor’s budget included a nearly $18 million dollar property tax increase.
First, I have to give a shout out to the staff in the Mayor’s administration. The fiscal managers, program directors, and many more were extremely helpful and professional throughout this process. I’m always impressed by their work ethic and professionalism, even when being asked many tough budgetary questions.
Ultimately, my colleague Council Chair Richard Snelgrove and I proposed a package of roughly $11.8 million in proposed cuts to the budget. The Council ended up approving about $6 million in cuts. I’m pleased there were some non-essential items removed, but also disappointed we didn’t cut more.
I’ve included here the full list of cuts/proposals that I spoke to in our council meeting last Tuesday. Some of these items are rough dollar amounts based on multiple factors, or would need to be implemented thoughtfully, but each proposal is intended to curb expenditures in an area that may be nice to have, but is not essential to the core role of county government (especially in a tax increase year).
The reason I am so passionate about cutting the “nice to have” items from government is simply this: it isn’t our money—it belongs to the taxpayers. Every trim we can make to push back against the natural tendency of government to grow can help keep more of your tax dollars in your own wallets. And I always believe we can do this while still making valuable investments in public services, which I’ve defended before. But our aim should always be to achieve maximum efficiency, and keep the role of government restrained and carefully targeted.
Going through the largest government budget in Utah (second only to the state government budget itself) that totals roughly $1.4 billion is hard work, but I love the opportunity to do so on behalf of my constituents. Every vote I cast as a County Council member comes after thoughtful consideration of how it will impact the county, our residents, and the constituents whom I represent in this role.
Every fall, Salt Lake County goes through its annual budget process. As the government entity with the second largest government budget in Utah (coming behind only the state budget itself), there are a myriad of programs, services, and expenditures that comprise the now $1.4 billion budget.
In addition to the statutorily required functions that include assessing and collecting taxes, running elections, and core criminal justice/public safety roles, there are quality of life functions that make Salt Lake County a better place for families to flourish. These include our regional parks, recreation centers, open space, libraries, and other regionally significant amenities - some of which are funded through tourism dollars.
I love living in Salt Lake County, both for the quality of life as well as the fact that we work hard to tackle tough challenges like childhood trauma, poverty, affordable housing, and more. It’s very important to me that county government performs its essential and important functions with integrity, transparency, and efficiency.
The budget season is a time when I and my colleagues on the council must act in an oversight role over the executive branch to ensure funds are spent in accordance with the principles above. This is particularly important this year, given that the County Mayor’s proposed budget includes a nearly $18 million property tax increase. My goal is to find any unnecessary spending so that we can balance the budget without a tax increase, before we ever ask taxpayers for more.
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]
|Aimee Winder Newton||
aimee winder newton: County Council district 3