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SALT LAKE CITY — Presenting his final budget to the Salt Lake County Council on Thursday, outgoing mayor Peter Corroon painted a dire picture for county libraries, senior centers and law enforcement and asked the council to support a 17.5 percent property tax increase.
The tax increase would cost the average homeowner $64 a year, Corroon said, and would raise $30.9 million for the county.
If passed by the council, the increase would appear on tax bills beginning in November 2013. It would be the county's first property tax increase since 2000.
Without the tax increase, Corroon said the county will be faced with major layoffs, the closure of facilities and a district attorney's office that has to pick and choose which criminals to prosecute.
As difficult as it is, when it's time to raise taxes, it's time to raise taxes.
–Mayor Peter Corroon
"As difficult as it is, when it's time to raise taxes, it's time to raise taxes," he said, "and that time has come. This is the best way to keep our county government stable and operational."
Services that would be paid for with the additional revenue include $8.5 million in deferred capitol maintenance and just under $7 million to restore employee salaries and benefits that were cut during the recession, Corroon said.
The mayor described the proposed budget as sensible and sustainable and said the tax increase, combined with rebounding sales tax revenue, would put the county in a position to meet the growing demand for services.
Since 2001, the population in Salt Lake County has grown by 140,000, Corroon said.
"Needs are always infinite, and the resources are always finite," he said. "For the last four years, matching taxpayer dollars with (residents') needs has been a challenge. The challenge is even greater this year."
Darren Casper, Corroon's chief financial officer, presented a detailed breakdown of the budget to members of the council.
Without the tax increase, Casper said the county would be faced with eliminating 319 full-time jobs and closing the Oxbow Jail, five recreation centers, four senior centers and two libraries.
Though sales tax revenue had begun to rebound from recession-era levels, that amounts to just 12.7 percent of the county's total revenue and is insufficient to meet increased needs, he said.
"That is why you can't rely on sales tax to bail you out of this recession," Casper said.
Contributing: Mary Richards