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Cottonwood Heights Journal

A look at Cottonwood Heights' budget priorities

Mar 02, 2020 10:07AM ● By Cassie Goff

Up to $35,000 would be needed to build bike lane barriers along Bengal Boulevard. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected] 

Every year, the Cottonwood City Council attends a day-long budget retreat. The purpose of this retreat is to establish priorities for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, review policies and procedures, analyze city expenditures and categorize funding opportunities. This year, the budget retreat was held on Jan. 22. 

Regularly, the biggest expenditure and impact on the city budget are the employees. Roughly 40% of city expenditures are for city staff’s wages and benefits. Every year, the city council analyzes an adjustment to that expenditure based on COLA (cost of living adjustment) and merit. For the upcoming 2020–2021 fiscal year, Finance Director Scott Jurges recommends increasing that expenditure by $477,000.

Frequent conversations around the city’s storm water drain system over the past year influenced the potential of developing a storm drain water fee. Over $23 million of storm drain projects have been identified within the capital facilities plan. One of the more significant projects is to survey and clean all the storm drains within the city, which would cost around $900,000. 

In order to fund some of these projects, city staff members provided some preliminary research for potentially implementing a storm drain water fee. Salt Lake City, Layton and over 10 other cities charge a storm drain water fee anywhere from $3 to $17. The suggestion for this fee would be to charge it with residents’ power bills once a quarter.

Beyond the possibility of a storm drain water fee, the Cottonwood Heights City Council has preliminarily decided not to consider increasing any other fees or taxes. For the 2020–2021 fiscal year, the city will not be increasing property taxes.

Besides the already mentioned expenditures and routine expenditures such as road maintenance, the city council discussed other potential expenditures, including building new public works facilities, editing the city’s general plan, opening a dog park, developing bike lane barriers along Bengal Boulevard, land acquisition for the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, solar panels for City Hall and electric vehicle chargers.

The Cottonwood Heights General Plan was adopted in 2005. City staff members believe it’s time to re-do that plan, since the anticipated lifespan of a general plan document is about 10 years. In addition, there have been multiple suggestions for edits over the past few years. If the city does not receive a grant to help fund that venture, it will be a potential expenditure from the city’s budget.

City Manager Tim Tingey suggested looking into creating separated bike lanes along Bengal Boulevard. Cost estimates for bike lane barriers range between $8,000 and $35,000. However, Tingey suggested the possibility of finding some grant money to help fund that project.

Residents have been requesting a dog park for years. With some research from the Parks, Trails and Open Space Committee, and a recommendation to fence off a section of Mountview Park for an off-leash dog park, council members are hoping to put some money toward a dog park this fiscal year.

Some additional expenditures that have not yet made the council’s top priorities include: implementing more cameras and Wi-Fi in public parks, trail alignment behind Target (7025 Park Center Drive) to the Santa Fe apartments (1550 Fort Union Boulevard), restoring the Old Mill site, replacing signs for the Ferguson Canyon Trail (7721 Timberline Drive), sidewalk revisions and landscaping and weed work for trailheads.

Lastly, some suggestions for the City Council to consider that are relatively low-cost or no-cost include: sustainability initiatives, revising chapter 2 of the city code (“Governance and Administration”), revising the planned development district (PDD), revising an ordinance concerning private property, enforcing no-idling, discussing term limits, reassessing Columbus Day, prohibiting puppy mills, developing policies for employee conflicts of interest, giving more decision-making power to the planning commission and passing a resolution for the ERA.