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The City Journals

Proposed Murray City budget focuses on capital projects

Apr 22, 2019 02:59PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Mayor Blair Camp speaks during city council meeting. Here is his monthly message. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

This year, “awkward” might be the best word to describe Murray City’s budget process. Last year, the budget was presented with a proposed tax increase, and the City Council and Mayor Blair Camp banded together to address the public’s concerns. This year, it’s the opposite; the mayor and council are estranged, and no tax hike is planned.

The mayor’s proposed budget offered no surprises this year, just straightforward requests for capital improvement projects. The biggest change in the budget presentation was the absence of a city finance director. Danyce Steck, who held the post for only two years, resigned in March to take over West Jordan City’s finance department.

In February, friction developed between the mayor and council when Camp proposed to place several administrative departments under the leadership of the finance director, including the non-financial Recorder Division and Human Resources Department. Camp’s stated purpose for the change was to improve efficiency within City Hall.

City Councilman Dave Nicponski countered with concerns the HR Department needs to stand alone for purposes of legality, confidentiality and non-biased representation. In a rare move, the council radically amended the mayor’s proposal and denied the reorganization, keeping HR in its current stand-alone status. The council unanimously approved the amended proposal. During the Mayor’s Report, Camp lashed out at the council, stating he was disappointed with the council’s action.

It is unsure if the council’s amendment is what spurred Steck to accept the West Jordan position. Currently, the Murray City controller and accountant are temporarily running the Finance Department.

“There was a minor disagreement over the placement of a department on the reorganization, but nothing more. Our relationship with the mayor continues to be a vibrant and healthy one,” stated Nicponski.

However, during the March 2 City Council meeting, the mayor and council, generally affable with one another, avoided each other completely. The mayor, uncharacteristically, didn’t even issue his bimonthly Mayor’s Report. In subsequent meetings, the mayor and council members were seen exchanging some pleasantries. 

The council and mayor, now on speaking terms but minus a finance director, will consider the mayor’s request for the new position of a wastewater superintendent, with a salary of over $128,000. The mayor is also asking for another Power Department metering technician, a part-time plans examiner and an office administrator for the City Council. The mayor is recommending a cost of living increase (COLA) for all employees of up to five percent. Over a million dollars is proposed to cover employee overtime, with over half of that earmarked for the police and fire departments.

The Parks Department is seeking $700,000 to replace all the pavilions in Murray Park. Other capital requests include $2,365,000 for vehicle and equipment replacements, including police cars, firetrucks, snowplows and dump trucks; $700,000 for facilities maintenance (City Hall, Murray Mansion, Murray Theater, etc.); $1,500,000 for roads maintenance; $1,000,000 for parks maintenance; $200,000 for golf course equipment; and $120,000 for professional services for studies and other projects.

The mayor’s tentative budget for the General Fund increased four percent over last year’s budget. Personnel costs increased seven percent; however, the overall cost of operations in the General Fund decreased by three percent. The General Fund reserve level remains the same at approximately 22 percent.

As far as revenue going into the city’s coffers, no property tax increase is planned this year. Sales tax revenue is estimated to increase by less than one percent during the current fiscal year. 

According to Nicponski, “The mayor’s budget was balanced and responsible, providing for the necessary care and upkeep for the city. The budget also awarded an acceptable COLA to our employees, who work so well to serve and protect our citizens.”