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Mayor brings to light questionable county fund distribution

Jul 25, 2017 05:14PM ● Published by Travis Barton

A picture of the list Mayor Dave Alvord received at the mayor’s conference this year. It shows how the $47 million will be distributed across the county this year. (South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord Facebook page)

Gallery: Mayor brings to light questionable county fund distribution [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com
 
Mayor Dave Alvord helped bring to light a large discrepancy in how certain county sales tax funds are used, and city councilmembers voiced their appreciation at a June city council meeting.
 
Alvord spearheaded an effort in June calling on Salt Lake County Council members to change a process that has seen revenue, from county sales tax funds that are used for regional transportation projects, disproportionately distributed across the valley.
 
Since 2003, South Jordan received none of those funds while other cities—Sandy, Taylorsville and Draper—received $42.9 million, $23.5 million and $18.5 million, respectively.
 
The process of how those funds are distributed has caused ire among residents and city officials.
 
“What upset the council and the mayor and the city manager was that your tax money was basically going to fund other cities’ transportation projects,” Alvord said.
 
He said South Jordan has contributed $20 million to a county fund that, up until this year, brought the city nothing.
 
It comes from a process that sees the county fund—called the “quarter of the quarter”—accrue money from one-quarter of the .25 sales tax for transit. Four different cities, including South Jordan, saw no money assigned to projects for their areas over that 14-year span.
 
Another $47 million from the fund was distributed this year with South Jordan receiving $1.5 million, while Draper and Sandy receive another $5.8 million and $5 million, respectively.
 
The county council voted 4-4 to rescind the distribution decision in June, meaning the fund will go forward this year.
 
“Anytime your public taxpayer money is being spent, you should know how it’s being spent, where it’s being spent, and this list of $47 million shouldn’t be created in secret,” Rogers said. “It’s extremely unfortunate that this process went the way it did.”
 
Sen. Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville) gave the list to Alvord at a mayor’s conference this year. It showed the distribution for the quarter of the quarter fund.
 
The lack of knowledge on how which cities get what money is what irked city officials and countless others. City officials felt it was determined by lobbyists and that there was no public vetting process.
 
Alvord told city councilmembers during their June 6 city council meeting that he told the county council “this has been perfectly unfair.” 
 
“It wasn’t for a lack of needing projects; it was simply that we weren’t ever told how to apply for this money,” Alvord said. “Again, this list wasn’t done in a transparent way.”
 
Though the process will continue, Alvord thanked residents on his Facebook page for their participation. He wrote the county council vote would have been 7-2 without the emails sent from residents.
 
“I feel satisfied that I left it all on the field and I'll sleep well tonight. I am also happy that light has been shed on a flawed process,” he wrote.
 
Questions may arise that city officials don’t need money for transportation projects, and they don’t want to see more construction come to South Jordan, Alvord addressed that when he wrote in a Facebook comment that the money is typically used on tributary roads, or streets attached to larger roadways.
 
“If your city doesn’t get this money—you have to use your general fund, which can affect your property taxes in the long run,” he wrote.
 
City council members and residents were appreciative of the mayor’s endeavors that saw him call on grassroots action from residents, as well as speak to the county council regarding the disparity.
 
Resident Chuck Newton wrote in an email read during the June 20 city council meeting that this will positively affect South Jordan Salt Lake County and Utah for years to come.”
 
“A big thanks should go to Mayor Alvord for putting himself out on a ledge to restore justice and equality to the regional transportation issue and fair funding; for winning when the deck was stacked against him,” wrote Newton, a former city councilmember for South Jordan. 
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