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Salt Lake County tax revenues show promising economic future

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Is the economy, in general, improving?

The answer is yes, at least according to the tax revenue of Utah's second-largest government.

When the recession hit in 2008, revenues in Salt Lake County went down considerably. But since 2010, the economy is growing, more people are spending, and now revenues are up solidly.

Every day people make transactions -- buying food, buying a car, buying gasoline. The county gets one fourth of one percent of that in taxes that pay for government services.

Lance Brown, the county's longtime budget director, remembers a county council member asking how bad things looked right after the Great Recession hit in 2008.

"My response was everything that's happening is outside our models. It's unprecedented," he said.

In essence, consumer spending was freezing up and tax revenues were headed off a cliff.

"The downturn and the decline in revenue was unprecedented, and that basically placed state and local governments in uncharted waters," said Brown.

A six-percent drop in revenues in 2008 was followed by 11 percent in 2009 -- meaning a $9-million cut for county services like police, fire and more.

"During my time with Salt Lake County, I've never seen a decline of that magnitude," said Brown.

But things have been improving over the past few years. County tax revenues have rebounded. This year alone, they're up more than eight percent from last year.

"It's certainly good news in terms of what we've been through," said Brown.

Brown says the economy's not out of the woods yet. Job growth is still sluggish, the housing market is still recovering and Europe's debt crisis is still a worry.

But the trend is positive, which means more people spending and more tax revenues.

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John Daley


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