The SLC budget calls for new initiatives for the Great Salt Lake, air quality and e-bikes

Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s fiscal year 2024 budget includes funding for initiatives that protect the Great Salt Lake, make e-bikes easier for residents, and bring more affordable housing to Salt Lake City.

“We are ambitious in our vision and confident in our budget planning,” Mendenhall said in a speech to City Council Tuesday night. “We have weathered many storms and come out of it stronger than ever. It is with great confidence in our 16 departments that do this work every day that I am very pleased to present this year’s budget proposal to you.”

Mendenhall proposes an overall fund budget of nearly $445 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The spending plan is about $19 million more than this year — an increase the mayor attributes primarily to inflation.

In addition to funding the list of Great Salt Lake conservation strategies that Mendenhall announced in her January State of the City address, the mayor’s budget proposes allocating resources to research into creating a Great Salt Lake Shoreline Preserve.

“While establishing such an area would be a multi-year endeavor,” she said, “our work through the public utility and community and neighborhood departments will explore what would be required to manage more wetlands and more natural areas on the banks of the Great and to protect salt lake.”

Mendenhall said the idea was brought to her office by a collection of residents, advocates and scientists, including the Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Great Salt Lake, the Rudy Duck Club and the Westpointe Community Council.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to the community members who brought this idea to our city,” she said. “It’s that kind of creative thinking and committed partnerships that will help save our lake.”

To protect the city’s air quality, Mendenhall said her budget will continue to fund student fares, expand the network of electric vehicle charging stations and extend a partnership with the state to swap the companies’ gas-guzzling lawn equipment for electric alternatives

The mayor also announced the creation of an incentive program aimed at moving residents away from the exhaust to the pedals and helping more homeowners gain access to electric landscape equipment.

“It will empower our city’s residents to make small but impactful changes in their homes and the way they commute, which can help improve our air quality and quality of life,” she said. “This can range from battery-powered garden tools to the purchase of an e-bike. Our residents will have easier access to tools that have a direct impact on improving our local air quality through this new incentive program.”

Andrew Wittenberg, the mayor’s communications director, said the program would provide discounts for residents who would rather tuck in to fuel their commute or keep up with gardening.

Affordable housing and homelessness

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Aster, a new development at 255 S. State that will offer 190 residential and mixed-income units, open space and common areas, May 2, 2023.

Mendenhall said the city has made progress on investing in affordable housing and it wants to continue that work.

Her proposal includes a nearly $10 million affordable housing allocation that will be split between new investment — totaling about $700,000 — and ongoing funding from the city and its redevelopment agency.

The spending would be in addition to the $10 million the council is considering amending this year’s budget for a housing program that would allow tenants to build savings in the form of equity.

“I’m saying that again because it’s important for everyone to understand that our commitment to lowering the cost of living in this capital is real,” Mendenhall said. “Over the course of the next month, you as the City Council will consider a total of $20 million in city-led affordable housing investments.”

While housing is vital to tackling homelessness, Mendenhall said the city is a leader in helping vulnerable residents connect to services and keeping public spaces clean and safe.

The mayor is asking for money to bolster the downtown ambassador program, add social workers to medical response teams, and provide renter relocation services to those affected by gentrification-related displacement.

“The practicality of increasing these investments only reinforces the need to also strengthen our relationships with regional and state partners,” Mendenhall said, “to find much-needed, long-term solutions that provide additional shelter, adequate winter spillover plans and more.” include development of mental health services and addiction treatment.”

No new property tax increases

(Salt Lake City) A baseball rendering presented to Salt Lake City officials as part of a September 2022 proposal to build a major league ballpark in North Temple’s Power District.

Mendenhall’s budget does not include a property tax increase. However, a planned rate increase by public utilities for water, sewage and stormwater infrastructure will increase bills for low-water users by about $10 per month.

Other demands in the mayor’s budget are:

• $10.2 million for transportation projects such as city walkways, construction of roundabouts and replacement of traffic lights.

• $10.3 million for sidewalks, alley improvements, maintenance and concrete work.

• A 5% cost of living adjustment for unrepresented workers and market adjustments for jobs currently paid below market wages.

• Created a program that reimburses employees up to $500 annually for quality of life expenses such as ski passes, financial advisors and home closing costs.

• 115 new full-time positions for various city services.

• Funding to bring more activity and city workers to the Ballpark neighborhood to help prepare for a future without the Salt Lake Bees.

“We all share the excitement of this electric vibe that’s surrounding our city right now, and the endless possibilities that lie ahead,” Mendenhall said. “We are on the right path. Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the Olympics and the year-round benefits our residents can reap from these opportunities are knocking on our door. While we may still dream of exactly what that future will look like, I have never been more confident in the strength of our city than I am today.”

Justin Scaccy

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