ST. GEORGE – With the end of the year approaching, it’s budget time for Washington County. During a meeting Tuesday, County Commissioners were given a look at the county’s 2017 preliminary budget.
The county’s projected general fund for next year is $31 million, a 1.8 percent increase over the 2016 budget, Washington County Clerk Kim Hafen said. The 2016 budget was $30 million. The increase is due to the additional property taxes gained from continued growth in the county.
Hafen went on to share various highlights of the preliminary budget with the commissioners.
“We are going to have a 2 percent wage increase built into the budget,” Hafen said, though noted it wouldn’t be official until the commissioners approve the budget in December.
There are areas where the county is devoting additional funding, such as its court defender fund, as well as the tourism and recreation fund which are both seeing significant increases over the current year.
The public defender fund is up to $920,617 over $760,688. This is due to the county issuing additional contracts for defense attorneys, Hafen said.
As for the county’s tourism fund, Hafen said, “This budget is significantly higher as you can see.”
The proposed 2017 budget for the tourism office is $9.5 million over 2016’s $5.7 million. The county recreation fund is also up at $7.4 million from 2016’s $4.8 million.
This is due to the county having committed funding for “big ticket items” for projects in Springdale and at Dixie State University.
In Springdale, a parking structure has been proposed near the entrance of Zion National Park to help deal with parking issues brought on by ever-increasing numbers of visitors.
The project at Dixie State University is related to the school’s new Human Performance/Student Wellness Center. That project will be pulling money from both the county’s tourism and recreation funds, Hafen said.
Money from the county recreation fund is also being devoted to a $2.5 million building to be built at the Regional Park/county fairgrounds near Hurricane. The new facility will feature office space as well as extra room for indoor fair exhibits.
While some county residents may question why the county is spending so much on tourism and recreation projects, Commissioner Victor Iverson said the ultimate goal is to attract people to visit the county.
“The county really has a stewardship over these funds to spend them in a way that promotes and attracts tourism and brings people to the county,” Iverson said. Revenues from the twin-funds can only be used for related projects and cannot be applied elsewhere.
Both funds are fueled by taxes generated by people staying at hotels and going to restaurants, Hafen added.
This year the process of putting the county budget together was different from previous years, Hafen said. Instead of department heads meeting with the county clerk only, this year those who are directly overseen by the County Commission also met with that body for budgetary recommendations.
“I think it’s been a good exercise for us,” he said. “I think our county department heads do a great job with their budgets.”
The County Commission approved the expenditure of $40,000 related to its new “Give Your Land a Hand” county-wide lands clean-up campaign.
The campaign stresses keeping private and public lands clean and taking trash to the county landfill rather then participating in illegal dumping. The money approved for the campaign will go toward the cost of an animated commercial to be played in area theaters, as well as 30 and 60 second radio ads.
The county has also released nine draft sections of its own resource management plan for public review.
The county plan is not to be confused with the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed draft resource management plans that nearly caused county and municipal officials’ collective heads to explode when initially released.
Celeste Maloy, deputy attorney for the county, who drafted the nine draft sections, said the state is requiring each county to create a resource management plan by May of next year. She added she would like public input on the drafts (30 pages thus far), which can be accessed in the “resources” section at the end of this article.
Maloy said she is also currently working with the BLM and U.S. Forest Service on details of the county’s RMP draft.
- Preliminary 2017 Washington County Budget
- Draft sections of the Washington County Resource Management Plan
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