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County Council Poised to Pass a Budget With Money for Criminal Justice Reforms

Andrea Smardon
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, joins Sheriff Jim Winder and Mayor Ben McAdams.

This week, the Salt Lake County Council gave preliminary approval for the $1.1 billion-dollar, 2016, county budget. It includes Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams plan to improve the criminal justice system.

To pay for it, the county will continue to collect on a bond that was initially issued to construct the county jail. It’s set to expire at the end of the year. McAdams says a portion of the $9.4 million dollar levy will be invested in ongoing criminal justice needs.

“But we want to reserve the bulk of that to start to bend the curve away from the broken system to one that really works,” McAdams says.

The rest of the money will be dedicated to the construction of a community corrections center; a secure facility that helps ease offenders back into daily life. McAdams is also asking the council to fund two pay-for success initiatives aimed at lowering recidivism and minimizing homelessness. 

The council said no to a couple of the mayors priorities.  McAdams asked to discontinue the county’s 401(k) match for employees in order to raise salaries across the board. The council agreed to end the match, but set aside fewer dollars for pay increases than McAdams hoped for. He says the county is dealing with high employee turnover.

“And that turnover is expensive for us because we’re losing people and we have to bring in new people and train them and get them prepared for their job,” McAdams says. “That’s overhead that is better spent if we can pay a competitive salary to retain our welders and auto mechanics and other things.”

The council will finalize the budget in early December. 

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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