Taylorsville officials gather to discuss city priorities, coming fiscal year
May 21, 2018 12:08PM
● By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson (L), city council members and department heads discuss spending priorities in preparation for a new city budget. (Tiffany Janzen/Taylorsville City)
By Carl Fauver | firstname.lastname@example.org
The new Taylorsville fiscal year begins July 1 and will operate through the city’s first budget finalized under new Mayor Kristie Overson. Before crunching the numbers too thoroughly, Overson first wanted to get a better feel for what elected officials were thinking about the coming year.
“Although the city council meets twice a month, they always have a full agenda, and there is never really time to just talk openly about what each of their priorities are,” Overson said. “I wanted to hold a strategy discussion just to better learn what everyone is thinking, going into the new (fiscal) year. It wasn’t a completely new idea. But we haven’t held a meeting like this for quite a while.”
Overson, city council members, police chief and various department heads all gathered around a table — at the Utah State University Taylorsville Campus (920 West 4500 South) — for something called a “City Priorities Planning Session.”
“When we meet (in city council chambers), we are fragmented; I can’t see everyone’s eyes, and they can’t see mine,” council Vice Chairman Dan Armstrong said. “So, (the priorities meeting) was great. We discussed lots of city needs, all around a table where everyone could see everyone else.”
While Armstrong is a council veteran — having just been elected to his second four-year term last fall — the body’s newest member also found the roundtable discussion helpful.
“It was very enlightening,” said Councilman Curt Cochran, who was elected by the rest of the council to replace Overson in the District 2 seat after she was elected mayor. “For me, as a new council member, it was valuable to learn more about everyone’s priorities. We discussed a lot of important things, including housing density and working to figure out how our city can grow.”
One of the primary topics of conversation at the priorities session was public safety and law enforcement. Unified Police Department Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant remind the group of his agency’s ongoing problem in filling vacancies with qualified officers.
“The city has always been very supportive of our department, and I am very grateful to the mayor and council,” Wyant said. “But there’s not much they can do to help our current problem. In our Taylorsville precinct alone, I am down seven police officers. Throughout all of UPD, we are short more than 30 officers.”
Wyant said those officer positions are already funded in Taylorsville and throughout the department. The vacancies are going unfilled simply due to a shortage of qualified police officer candidates.
“To compensate for our manpower shortage, we are paying officers a lot of overtime,” Wyant added. “So, the public is safe. We are not leaving areas uncovered due to the officer shortage. But at the mayor’s priorities meeting, I had to tell everyone again, we are still not at full staffing.”
Overson assured Wyant city leaders want to do all they can to assist.
“We can’t come up with extra money to pay police salaries, but maybe there are other things the city can do,” Overson said. “For example, we have discussed the possibility of providing additional city funds to make sure all of our Taylorsville officers have smartphones to use while on duty. We might also be able to provide additional funding for overtime hours until more officers can be hired.”
Another topic at the priorities meeting concerned the changes coming out in front of Taylorsville City Hall.
“We have a terrific state-of-the-art performing arts center that will soon be built,” Council Chairman Brad Christopherson said. “But now we need to make decisions about what will be around it. Do we want to encourage a nice restaurant to be built there? How will the area be landscaped? Changes to our city master plan will be needed, and this meeting gave us a chance to discuss those.”
Another newcomer to the city council — Meredith Harker, who began in January — also felt the session was valuable, for yet another reason.
“For me, the upkeep of Taylorsville Park (4700 South Redwood Road) is important because it’s such a high-profile location and serves so many people,” Harker said. “The appearance of that park reflects on our city. So, I told everyone at the meeting, I would like to see that become a higher priority. And that’s what I loved about the meeting. It was a team building thing — in a relaxed atmosphere — where everyone in the room got to point out different issues they feel are important.”
Near the end of the three-hour meeting, Overson suggested the group try to have more of these priority sessions in the future. Councilman Ernest Burgess said support for that idea appeared unanimous.
“We covered a lot of issues and shared some good ideas,” he said. “I think it was very beneficial to learn more about what everyone believes ought to be the highest priorities for our city going forward.”