Thursday, January 20, 2011

Utah cities cautious as nation's economy turns around

Even as marginally improving numbers celebrate the nation's emergence from economic eclipse, many local Utah officials say they're still struggling to escape its shadows. An ongoing survey by the Utah League of Cities and Towns found that 65 percent of responding mayors and managers statewide said they were "less able" to meet the financial needs of running their cities in 2010. The survey was conducted between October 1 and November 23, 2010.

Equally concerning, the survey found that 57 percent believe they'll be even "less able" to address those same needs in 2011. Reasons for these concerns are simple. Revenues coming into city coffers are falling or holding steady at best, while the expenses of running a city, despite the federal governmental assurances that inflation is being kept in check, continue to spiral upward. Seventy-four percent said rising employee healthcare benefits were having either a moderate or major impact on budgets. But there was plenty of other blame to go around, including continuing infrastructure needs (70 percent combined moderate or major impact); rising prices, inflation and cost of living increases (67 percent combined); employee pension costs (66 percent combined); increasing public safety needs (61 percent combined).

Meanwhile, only 21 percent of those responding said their city's tax base was increasing. Twenty-eight percent said it was actually decreasing, and another 21 percent said it was flat. The biggest concerns noted were declining property values, increasing utility bill delinquencies and delinquencies for utilities service fees or taxes, and property maintenance issues.
Box Elder News Journal