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Maintenance, Fire-Station Closure Sticking Points For SLC Budget

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker unveiled his $229 million budget Tuesday for the next fiscal year. It includes a 3 percent pay raise for city employees and funding for air quality initiatives. But it also proposes some cuts the city council may resist.

District 4 Councilman Luke Garrott says there are some tough decisions the council will have to make over the next few weeks. One, he says is whether to go along with the mayor’s proposed employee pay raises-- or focus on overdue maintenance to city streets, sidewalks and parks-which is why the council approved an $8 million property tax increase last year, against the Mayor’s wishes. 

“Everyone wants to be on the side of employees and employees have undergone hard times with the fiscal crisis and we’re glad that we’re going to be able to treat our employees well,” Garrott says. “But that means that the reason we raised taxes, which was to make some progress on our failing infrastructure in the city will have to be put off and maybe that’s okay.”

Becker told the council Tuesday night the city should not be in the position of cutting corners on the backs of employees.  He added his budget sets aside some funding for maintenance.

They mayor has also proposed closing fire station 9 near the airport, and reassigning those employees. The council pushed back on the issue last year when it was proposed. Fire Department Spokesman Jasen Asay says closing the station would present very little risk to the community.

“That station averages about two calls per day and most of the area is industrial,” Asay says. “There’s very little residential out there. The residential out there in the area are the sixteen hotels and the international center. The buildings out there, most of them are modern construction. They have the latest fire suppression systems.”

The council is required to pass a budget by June 22nd. The new fiscal year begins July 1st.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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