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 roughly $1.5 billion budget.
On October 21st, Mayor Wilson presented her proposed budget to the county council. In subsequent weeks council members have the opportunity to review all new budgetary requests, ongoing expenditures, and any reinstatement of funding previously cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year the County will also review budgetary requests for funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Salt Lake County is a direct recipient of these federal dollars provided to support COVID-19 response efforts, replace lost public sector revenue, support immediate economic stabilization, and address systemic public health and economic challenges.
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.
Here are some key principles I prioritize during the budget process, this year included.
First and foremost, tax dollars don’t “belong” to the county. The funds are yours. Taxpayers entrust the county, or any government for that matter, with a portion of their hard-earned money because they expect that entity to provide essential services for society to function.
Second, I believe that all government functions should be viewed in two different categories: “need to have” and “nice to have.”
The “need to have” list includes things that are statutorily required of the county to perform, think constitutionally mandated services such as criminal justice and election administration. I also consider public safety to be in this category, since keeping our residents safe is a core function of government. However, just because they are essential does not mean they are above scrutiny. Efficiencies can still be found.
The “nice to have” list includes quality of life services the county provides, as well as any other program or initiative that can easily be described as a benefit to county residents, but not necessarily considered essential. Libraries and open space are some of the things in this category.
Lastly, I review each aspect of our budget and ask, “Is this the proper role of county government?” There are many programs or services that are better suited to other government entities, nonprofits, or the private sector. It is always important to review each program, service, or expenditure and ask that question again and again.
I’m confident that these principles are the essence of good budgeting and fiscal discipline, and I will always advocate for this approach any time the government is entrusted with taxpayer dollars.
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