Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker is recommending employee pay raises and continued funding for air quality initiatives in his 2014-2015 budget proposal. He’s also calling on the state auditor to look into why the city’s property tax revenue is lower than expected.
Speaking to the press Tuesday afternoon Becker once again stressed the city’s role in addressing poor air quality.
“ It is very much at the heart of this city’s financial success and prosperity," Becker says. "It is a dark cloud hanging over the city.”
Becker’s proposal invests more than $350,000 over the next two years in replacing less-efficient 2-stroke engines in city vehicles and provides continued funding for converting its entire fleet to compressed natural gas.
His plan also includes investing more in people. He wants to give city employees a 3 percent raise.
“This really is a matter of catching up a little bit with the financial losses that employees have faced over the last seven years now," Becker says. "And expressing an appreciation for the work they do and trying to compensate them a little bit better for the work they’re doing.”
But Becker is concerned that property tax revenues aren’t keeping up with the economic recovery. He’s calling on state auditor John Dougall to find out why.
“If this city is disadvantaged relatively speaking compared to other communities or within the state as a whole, it makes it much more difficult for us to provide the services and facilities that people expect," Becker says. "And it means that existing property tax payers pay more than they should.”
Still Becker says the city continues to operate more efficiently. He’s recommending the closure of fire Station 9 on the city’s west side, which he says will save money without disrupting service. And for the first time in recent memory, he says city health-care costs are declining as a result of changes to employee health plans.
The city council will consider the mayor’s budget over the next few weeks and pass a final budget by June 22nd.