May 16, 2023 - City Council and Budget Meetings
Updated: May 23
We recently held a series of meetings beyond our normal session, mainly to discuss the budget. From engaging discussions to important decision-making processes, the schedule has allowed us to address a wide range of topics. Above all, I’m incredibly proud of the collaborative spirit I’ve witnessed during these meetings. Here’s a look at what we’ve been working on.
It’s budget season, and we recently held our first budget workshop on Monday, May 15th.
I’m constantly amazed by just how much it costs to keep the city running. Here in Heber City, we rely on two primary sources of funds: property taxes and sales tax. Property taxes offer more consistency and reliability compared to sales tax, but we have seen substantial growth in our sales tax revenue over the last several years.
The key question we face is whether we should rely on a fluctuating sales tax to finance our essential services, or if we should establish a property tax rate that adequately covers these services and reserve sales tax revenue for larger projects. It’s worth noting that Heber City’s property taxes (specifically referring to the City, not the County or school district) are lower than most other cities in Utah.
Here’s where the challenge lies: we want to find a way to provide world class services on a shoestring budget. One frustrating aspect of this is the absence of a replacement fund for essential infrastructure like our water and sewer systems, as well as our roads. We’re now experiencing the repercussions of this situation as we consider hiring additional staff, which is an urgent need, or providing raises to current staff to assist in this inflationary economy. It’s necessary to increase our taxes to generate the budget required.
According to estimates, the average home in Heber City would pay an additional $30 per year and the average business would pay an additional $200 per year. These additional funds would enable us to guarantee we have the police and personnel necessary to keep things running smoothly.
We need to make sure our collective house is in order. To address these matters, there will be a public hearing on the budget proposals during the regular council meeting on June 6, 2023. This will provide an opportunity for members of the community to voice their opinions and contribute to the decision-making process.
Heber City Police Officers Swearing-In
One of our first general business items was the swearing-in of three new police officers. We are proud to welcome Alex Maldonado, Logan Bandolier, and Daniel Velliscaz into the fold. Their families came to support them in this big step in their careers, providing a wonderful and touching moment. I welcome and congratulate these new officers and express my sincerest gratitude for their service to our community.
We heard a presentation from a community consultant, Roger Brooks, who helps cities plan and seek opportunities with their existing and future assets. The focus of our discussion was centered around our City Park and how much value it holds. We currently host Thursday concerts in the park, which serve as a fantastic way to bring our community together. However, we recognize the need to expand the venue and transform it into an even more prominent centerpiece downtown.
One suggestion was to incorporate a plaza-life environment by expanding the “band shell” and relocating it to the park’s northern end. Additionally, it was recommended that we consider closing off 200 South, between Main Street and 100 West, to enhance the connectivity and walkability of the city's core blocks. These ideas sparked great enthusiasm, especially since we already have a grant in place to assist with park improvements.
I look forward to witnessing the transformation of our downtown over the next 20 years, envisioning it as a destination with thriving restaurants and specialty stores. It's an exciting prospect, and I look forward to seeing our community flourish!
New State Flag Donation
The State of Utah has dedicated significant time and effort to the creation of a new flag that truly embodies the essence of the state. Countless hours of outreach were invested to ensure that the design represents all aspects of Utah.
The inclusion of the beehive and the central star pays homage to our Mormon pioneer heritage, symbolizing the hardworking and industrious nature of our people. These elements also signify the formation of our state. Additionally, the use of red at the bottom of the flag serves as a tribute to the stunning red rocks found in southern Utah. The white peaks represent the five major native tribes of the Utah territory, highlighting the rich cultural diversity of our region.
The flag is both simple and beautiful, and I believe it truly captures the spirit of Utah. What makes it even better is the inclusive and thorough process that led to its creation. Erik Nystul, a native of the Heber Valley, played a pivotal role in developing the design and gathering valuable information during the extensive public outreach.
The new flag is a representation of our heritage, natural beauty, and cultural richness.
Clayton Vance presented a proposal for the redevelopment of the property located at 22 South and 100 West. The concept aligns perfectly with the overall vision for revitalizing the downtown blocks, incorporating a blend of commercial and residential spaces.
Because this item involves a Master Development Agreement (MDA) and a zone change, its initial purpose was simply to gauge the Council’s reception to the idea. The Council was favorable to the change, and it will be revisited in a future meeting for an official vote. This project signifies a step forward in the ongoing efforts to create a vibrant and dynamic community.
June is known as Unity Month in Heber City, and we kick off the celebration with a concert in the park on June 8th.
We are also having a dedicated day of service on June 10th. There will be dumpsters available at city parks for community dumping of small household items and yard waste.
This is an important time to re-center as a community. I urge everyone to get know your neighbors and find new ways to serve each other!
Water Feature at City Hall
The first action item on the agenda addressed the construction of a water feature that will be adjacent to the city offices on Main Street. This project serves as another focal point where we hope to attract people to the downtown area, promoting more activity and progressing towards our goal of establishing a vibrant and walkable downtown district (as outlined in our Envision Heber 2050 master plan).
Originally proposed through Wasatch CAPS and the Community Alliance for Main Street (CAMS), this endeavor has garnered substantial support from generous donors. CAMS successfully raised $50,000, while the Heber Valley Chamber and Visitor's Bureau also contributed $50,000 towards this cause. With their collective contributions, we are confident in our ability to bring this project to fruition.
Our primary concern is that the project is not thrown together, but instead, meticulously planned with consideration for drainage in the area. We approved $150,000 for the project and gave the green light to continue the design and implementation.
Central Heber Trail Alignment
The Parks, Open Space, Trails, and Trees Committee approached us regarding the alignment of a trail along 300 South. I appreciate Scott House and all the committee members for their diligent efforts in promoting connectivity throughout our town.
Safety remains a top concern for me as we proceed with trail development. It is safer for a cyclist to ride on the road where cars are anticipating traffic than on the sidewalk or a trail. With this in mind, we have narrowed down the scope of the project to a 6-foot concrete trail from Main Street to 500 West along 300 south.
This focused approach is a positive step forward in improving connectivity across town, especially considering the upcoming trail developments in our valley.
College Downs Annexation
College Downs is a proposed development located north of town, currently not yet annexed into Heber City. The development proposal involves a Master Development Agreement (MDA) with 189 Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs) that have been approved in the county. The petitioner is now asking for 151 ERUs and annexation into Heber City.
Under Heber City code, we would currently allow 102 ERUs, but I’m sure there is a happy medium between the 151 and 102. As a result, the council has requested the petitioner to explore options for reducing the density and to return to the Council for further consideration.
To ensure we covered all time-sensitive matters, our meeting extended slightly beyond our usual stopping time of 10 p.m. Exciting changes lie ahead for the downtown landscape, including park improvements, the implementation of a water feature, and the emergence of proposed developments that are beginning to take shape.
The voting members of the Council continue to collaborate and discuss topics with a desire for compromise. There is truly a feeling of camaraderie and teamwork as we tackle these hard issues. I want to express my appreciation for my fellow council members for their service and the considerable time they invest in learning about and fighting for the issues that matter. Together, we are committed to the betterment of Heber City, and I feel blessed to be a part of these efforts.
D. Scott Phillips Heber City Council