The Lehi City Council is preparing to set the city’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which will likely include funding for various infrastructure projects and for hiring new city employees.

During a public hearing on Tuesday, the city council reviewed a tentative budget proposal put forward by Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson.

“Lehi City continues to grow rapidly,” the mayor wrote in a letter addressed to the council. “This growth provides opportunities as well as challenges. One area in which the City is consistently challenged is the impact to infrastructure by a growing business and residential population. As you will see, this budget shows an emphasis on infrastructure projects. Investments now will provide lasting benefits for current and future Lehi residents. A continued focus on infrastructure can allow City leaders to allow growth while still supporting existing stakeholders.”

The proposal notes that, over the past five years, Lehi’s total tax revenues have grown by an average of 10.72%, while total general fund revenues have grown by an average of 12.49%. It further notes that “in a concerted effort to grow conservatively, general fund expenditures have grown at an average of 7.95% over that time.”

The mayor wrote that despite the “challenges” and “environment of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” city revenue growth “stayed strong throughout the year (2020)” and sales tax revenues “have continued to trend positively.”

“However, the economic ups and downs have made forecasting a challenge,” he continued. “Uncertainty is still in the air. Budget forecasts have been made conservatively to allow the City to respond to changing conditions. The intent is to maintain a high level of service, take care of the City’s employees, while remaining able to respond to economic realities. We continue to follow City budgeting policies and best practices that allow for flexibility in the future.”

Total expenditures in Johnson’s proposed budget total over $211 million, a 16.78% increase in expenditures from the previous year. The mayor noted that this is “primarily due to infrastructure projects,” including $14.3 million to begin construction on fiber infrastructure, $7 million for a power substation and $5 million for sewer infrastructure projects.

The proposal, which Johnson noted does not include any tax increases, also includes $3.5 million in funds from the city and $1.5 million in grants through Utah County to construct a park and amenities around Dry Creek Lake, a reservoir that is expected to be built in the spring of 2022.

“In addition to providing a key component to the city’s pressurized irrigation system, this facility will provide tremendous recreational facilities not only for Lehi residents but for visitors to the community as well,” Johnson said.

The proposed budget would authorize the city to hire two additional parks employees “to assist in the areas of sports fields and trails and open space maintenance,” as well as three new patrol officers and an animal control officer to address “public safety needs.”

Additionally, it allocates $377,000 to design a fourth fire station for the city and funding for the Lehi Fire Department to hire a training officer.

The mayor said the proposal “anticipates a vote this November to consider a recreation sales tax for the City,” which would assess $1 for every $1,000 in sales occurring within the city.”

“Most cities in Utah County already assess this tax,” the mayor said, adding that the Parks, Arts, Recreation, and Culture tax would be used to allocate $5 million for the first phase of the Mellor-Rhodes sports park.

The mayor said he believed his proposed budget “addresses the needs which will be of greatest benefit to city residents and city employees.”

“As we work closely with the development community, the City’s rapid growth can continue in a responsible way,” he said. “Lehi continues to be on solid financial footing with the aim to secure a high quality of life for current and future Lehi residents.”

No members of the Lehi City Council had any questions on Tuesday about the proposed budget, which they will discuss further and vote on during their next meeting on May 25.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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