Letter to the Editor: Mayor responds to budget questions
Mark Johnson | Mayor of Lehi City
In response to a recent Letter to the Editor regarding the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget, I want to take a moment to explain the need for some of our large capital expenses.
WHY DO WE NEED A NEW CITY HALL?
The proposed building will be a joint public library and city center. The existing library building is aging and continues to have maintenance issues. The building is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the library. The existing city hall was built in 1988 with an addition in 2004. At the time it was built, the population of Lehi was about 8,000 residents. Our population today is more than 10 times that number. We simply don’t have the space for the employees needed to meet the demands of our current population.
WHY DO WE NEED TO HIRE TWO NEW PARKS PLANNERS?
Our budget includes only one new long-range parks planner. The City has over 230 acres of regional parks and 198 acres of neighborhood parks that are undeveloped and need to be planned. Planning our open space is increasingly important as we continue to build out our city.
WHY AN EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION AND WELLNESS PROGRAM?
Our medical insurance fees have increased an average of 1.5% each year over the last five years. Average insurance increase forhealth care in similar cities is about 6% year over year. We save between $150,000-225,000 each year because of employees demonstrated good health. The wellness program promotes healthy living, which also has resulted in an average insurance rebate to the city of $112,000 annually.
WHY A SUBSIDY TO THE LEGACY CENTER?
The City has subsidized the cost of the Legacy Center and its recreation programs from the time it was opened in 2004. This is normal practice for a city since public recreation is not a profitable venture. User fees cover a portion of the operating costs. Historically, the general fund contributes $1-2 million a year (about 37% of expenses) to help with capital projects and updates to the aging facility and equipment.
Many or our critical projects simply cannot be delayed any longer, especially due to inflation and rising interest rates that are only making these projects more expensive. Construction costs tend to rise faster than inflation, meaning that the purchasing power of savings over time decreases. Bonding for projects like the library and city center helps us secure today’s cost for a project and protect us from inflation. It is also more equitable for our residents. It allows for the project to be completed upfront and then the cost is spread out over time, ensuring that new residents that will benefit in the future also contribute to the cost of the project.
More than ever, we are making information about our budget available to the public through our website, social media accounts and Engage Lehi online forum. We are happy to address any questions. If you have any questions, please call our Information Center (385-201-1000), send a message on to our Facebook page, or submit an email to one of our departments at lehi-ut.gov/departments/contact-us.