Ephraim City budget clocks in at $15.5 million, law enforcement, infrastructure drives increase

 

Greg Knight 

Staff writer

7/13/2017

 

EPHRAIM—After weeks of discussion, the Ephraim City Council has approved a $15.5 million budget, which is a $1.6 million jump from the $13.9 million budgeted in 2016-17 and includes a nearly $400,000 increase in the general fund.

The budget, which went into effect July 1, was approved by the council during its June 14 meeting.

On the revenue side, the biggest change was a projected increase in interest earnings on money the city has in reserves. The city projected $296,197 in such earnings, up from $68,000 last year.

Tax revenue is also projected to go up by  $126,273, with $100,000 of that amount coming from sales tax.

The remainder of the city’s revenue stream is projected to remain relatively stable from the previous fiscal year, with the only major reduction coming from the termination of a nearly $100,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for police and fire department staffing.

On the expenditure side, the items that stand out, according to City Manager Brant Hanson, are increases in law enforcement and infrastructure to support the steady growth Ephraim is seeing.

“The addition of one police officer is a big deal,” Hanson said. “It’s something we didn’t anticipate, but we were able to put it in the budget. We also have the 300 East Project, which is going to allow us to put in more sidewalk and redo the road in front of the (elementary) school. That’s a big project, and we received a $1 million grant for it. We have to contribute $350,000 to it to make it happen.”

The budget as now written includes $200,000 in the Main Street Improvement Fund for beautification efforts near City Hall. But Hanson said that line item would be amended to help fund the salary of a fourth police officer.

“After pay and benefits, the officer will make around $130,000,” Hanson said.

There will also be a $100,000 increase in funding—to a total of $350,000—for street improvements. According to Hanson, the increase will go for parking lot renovations across the city, including the lot behind city hall.

“With all of those, plus the parking lot issues, those are the main things we will see happening in the budget next year,” the city manager said.

The $100,000 bump in sales tax revenue, along with a projected $30,000 jump in property taxes, is a function of the improving economic situation in Sanpete County and in Utah in general, Hanson added.

“The increase in sales tax is because people are spending more money and consumers are becoming more confident,” Hanson said. “It’s not due to any increase in the sales tax, but rather just an increase in spending, which drives the revenue.

“As to property taxes, we are limited in what we can take in. And, in fact, you usually see taxes decrease when property values increase. The reason we are seeing an increase in the taxes is because Ephraim is growing. It’s the addition of new homes that is driving that.”

The city has also pulled money into the electric fund from its saving accounts to help pay for a new power substation project.

“It’s a $500,000 transformer project that we were able to get a heck of a deal on,” Hanson said. “Generally they cost about $1.5 million, but we are going to able to do that for a lot less.”

The city is also budgeting $59,000 for a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition [SCADA] system upgrade to assist in water and sewer monitoring.

“Not all of our systems are on SCADA right now, so it prevents us from getting accurate readings,” Hanson said. “It will give us a better picture of what our water flows are.”

Hanson added that one phase of the Ephraim Tunnel should be completed next year—to the tune of $350,000, which is an increase of $100,000 from last year’s budget.

“The culinary pipe (which runs through the tunnel) should be installed, if not this year then definitely by next year,” he said.

Looking to the future, there is also a need for a new well on the northwest side of town, Hanson said. “We need a well that has fewer arsenic issues, so that is very important to us.”