MANTI—Sanpete County is proposing a whopping $24.6 million budget for 2022, up $8 million from the $16.5 million budget for the current year.
A final draft of the budget was released Dec. 7. A public hearing was scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. (after press time). But ordinarily, the final draft is final, and the county commission adopts it following the hearing.
The budget for the next calendar year includes $22,016,661 in general fund revenues and expenditures. The general fund is usually the best yardstick, because it reflects the level of day-to-day government activities.
There is approximately $2.5 million in other spending, primarily in earmarked funds, where money from a given source is reserved for a specific purpose. Those funds bring the budget to the $24.6 million total.
The $2.5 million includes $1.4 million in road work using Class B road funds the county gets from the federal and state government, bond payments on the county jail and a small amount set aside for capital projects.
The main reason the budget for 2022 is so much higher than this year is the $6 million the county has received or expects to receive from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), passed in March 2020, and the America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed early in 2021, both COVID economic relief measures. How the county will spend the money hasn’t been fully determined.
But the new budget also reflects the needs of a growing county, including added staff. The budget for emergency operations, which includes preparing for disasters, is up 61 percent. The budget for the county attorney’s office, where the caseload doubled this year compared to 2020, is up 21 percent.
The Sheriff’s Office, which has raised deputy pay to compete with other jurisdictions and added officers, is up 13 percent. And building inspection and zoning are up 9 percent. During 2021, the county separated the areas into two different offices and added a zoning enforcement officer.
When you break down the budget by function, law enforcement and public safety is the biggest area by far, this year accounting for more than $9 million, or 41 percent, of the $22 million general fund.
That includes $2.7 million for the Sheriff’s Office, $4.2 million for the jail and amounts ranging from $20,500 to $614,000 for Search and Rescue, the justice court, emergency services, public defenders for people charged with crimes, and the county attorney’s office, which prosecutes the defendants.
Because the Central Utah Correctional Facility is located in Sanpete County, the county is required to pay for public defenders for prisoners charged with crimes in the facility. Recently, the Utah Department of Corrections has stepped up referrals to the county attorney for crimes in prison, ranging from possession of drugs and even guns in the institution, to first-degree felony assaults on guards and other inmates.
Up to half of the $484,000 county budgets for public defenders could go for attorneys for inmates charged with the crimes. The county has tried to find a way to have the state, or all counties as a group, cover the costs, but so far, has not found a solution.
The Messenger has defined the next biggest category, accounting for $7.5 million, or 34 percent of the general fund, as “other.”
The category includes the $6 million in CARES and ARPA funding. But it is also a catchall for a diverse range of county activities, such as bee inspection, a fund for helping people in wildfire-prone areas to created defensive space around their homes, and assistance to the Indianola Valley Fire Department (the only fire department in the county based in the unincorporated area), to name a few activities.
“Administration, including the offices of county elected officials, and computer and duplicating services for all county offices, account for almost $2 million, or 9 percent, of the $22 million general fund.
Public works, including road maintenance; maintenance and utilities for the courthouse and other county buildings; and cutting weeds along highways, account for $1.4 million or 6 percent, of the $22 million general fund.
That area gets another $1.4 million from earmarked Class B road funds that aren’t included in the general fund.
Health, education and social services—including the county contribution to the Central Utah Public Health Department, the bookmobile, and the county contribution to the USU Extension Services and 4-H program—are budgeted for $770,000, or 3 percent of the general fund total.
Economic development, tourist promotion and the county fair, a category that encompasses a myriad of programs, is scheduled to get about $743,000, which also rounds out to 3 percent.
Building inspection and zoning, which is dealing with an explosion of subdivision requests and home building, is budgeted for $602,000, which likewise rounds out to 3 percent of the general fund.
An analysis for the past five years shows general fund budgets and spending have grown steadily. Audited expenditures in 2018 were $11 million. By 2020, they had risen to $16 million.
Considering both expenditures based on final numbers and budget projections, county general fund spending has risen an average of 16 percent per year since 2018.
However, considering both revenue and expenditures, Sanpete County appears to be fiscally sound. For the years from 2018 through 2020, the county brought in from $1.8 to $2.3 million more in general fund revenues than it spent in the corresponding year.
Based on the first nine months, which is all that is accounted for so far, expenditures for 2021 appear to be running well under budget.