Top annual city budget priorities include public safety costs, road maintenanceMar 07, 2023 03:26PM ● By Cassie Goff
The Cottonwood Heights City Council may be considering new contracts for custodial work for their city hall building for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)
Each year, the Cottonwood Heights City Council spends an entire day hashing out the main priorities for the annual budget. The City Journals attended the 2023 Budget Retreat on Jan. 31 and here is the summary:
The constant primary expenditures for Cottonwood Heights year after year include: public safety costs for police and fire services; expenses for public works operations including road maintenance, snowplowing, and transportation projects; and city employee compensation including COLA, merit, health costs and retirement matchings.
Within the 2023-24 fiscal year’s budget, $2.8 million will be allotted to the Public Works Department with their new Five-Year Road Maintenance Plan.
“This is a core funding element,” said City Manager Tim Tingey.
The United Fire Authority will be increasing their member fees for fire services this year. The increased cost for Cottonwood Heights is estimated to be between $225,000 and $227,000.
Emergency services dispatch for the Salt Lake County cities is routed through Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC). Cottonwood Heights is expecting their annual costs to increase by $5,000 this year.
As the cost of living continues to increase nationwide, many municipalities are increasing COLA for their employees. Cottonwood Heights is considering increasing COLA by 6.5% to stay benchmarked with other surrounding communities. In addition, merit will most likely be increased by at least 3%, as conversations for the specific percentage continue.
The Cottonwood Heights City Council discussed the potential of funding a handful of varying projects this upcoming year in addition to their necessary expenditures.
The Parks, Trails and Open Space (PTOS) Committee for Cottonwood Heights narrowed down a list from 20 potential projects to three for the council’s consideration. The PTOS Committee would like to see Bonneville Shoreline Trail connected throughout the city.
“Connecting Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon would be part of that trail,” said Community and Economic Development Director Mike Johnson.
Connectivity seems to be a main priority for the PTOS Committee as they also recommended connecting the Jordan River Trail System at Mountview Park (1651 Fort Union Blvd.) all the way to Highland Drive. Campaigns for trail accessibility was the other main idea recommended from the PTOS committee.
“The key feature of active transportation is the regionality,” said Councilmember Ellen Birrell.
City Manager Tingey and Public Works Director Matt Shipp sought to add an associate engineer position to the city staff. They noted that the annual workload for Right of Way plans and permits is quite heavy. An inspector and/or associate engineer would help some of the workload for city staff members be more manageable. The expected cost of adding this position would be within the $75,000 range.
A handful of updates to the Cottonwood Heights City Hall building (2277 Bengal Blvd.) were discussed as potential additional expenditures for the 2023-24 fiscal budget.
Currently, Cottonwood Heights hires out for the custodial, snow removal and lawn care work for city hall. Tingey has been considering creating building maintenance and custodial jobs. Creating those positions would offset the cost of canceling the current custodial contracts which range from $50,000 to $76,000 per year depending on the snow removal workload.
“We have to hire for even minimal things sometimes,” Tingey said. “We have looked at hiring custodial positions, which would cost around $70,000 to do most of that in house.”
In addition, an outdoor plaza with a performance platform has been recommended by various city committees. The front plaza at city hall is currently perceived as underutilized because it’s difficult to run electricity from the building to the outdoor area.
“We could do more with the area to create a gathering space,” Tingey said. “That way we wouldn’t have to run cords in and out of the building for electricity for various activities and performances.”
The low estimate for such a feat would start around $50,000. Mayor Mike Weichers recommended holding off another year to consider a plaza for city hall until they know more about what they are doing with Hillside Plaza (2378 Fort Union Blvd.). Councilmember Shawn Newell suggested having some of the city businesses set up booths in that gathering space of city hall during the summer months to see if they could generate enough interest to warrant a plaza and performance space.
Lastly, Mayor Weichers and the Historic Committee have been considering a Veterans Memorial Project for city hall. The Historic Committee would like to pursue some fundraising opportunities to create a memorial honoring officers, firefighters, first responders and families within the city.
“We have some good direction, and we’ll move forward,” said Tingey toward the end of the Cottonwood Heights annual budget retreat. “We have some good places to go.”
Additional potential expenditures the city council discussed included: increasing funding for ADA projects within roadways, waterways, additional speed radar signs, sustainability projects, recarpeting the community room within city hall, and staffing a fourth firefighter at the two fire stations within the city.
Current city projects that will be ongoing into next year’s annual budget include: Ferguson Park development (7721 Timberline Drive); the Public Works Building construction (6579 S. 3000 East); development of the Cottonwood Heights General Plan with Form-Based Code; development of a Public Safety Advisory Committee; processing due diligence for Hillside Plaza; preparing a HAWK signal along Fort Union Boulevard; 2700 East and 1700 East sidewalk improvements; striping for all city roads; crack sealing and repair for Fort Union Boulevard; Big Cottonwood Canyon trail reconstruction and wayfinding; inspecting and raising manholes throughout the city; cleaning and cameraing of the storm water system throughout the city; and participation in the Renewable Energy Program.