Officials Discuss Major Cuts to Special Service Districts in Uintah County
By Kristin Forbis, Jul 28, 2020
With mineral lease monies on the drastic decline, local officials in Uintah County are taking a close look at what to do with the Special Service Districts which provide what most consider essential services to the community. This was the topic of the monthly City/County meeting held at the Uintah Conference Center on Monday afternoon where all seemed to understand that tough decisions are going to have to be made and soon. The Uintah County Special Service Districts include the Transportation, Recreation, Impact Mitigation, Fire, Animal Services, and Health Districts. In 2014, the 6 districts were funded by a combined 34 million dollars in mineral lease funds. In 2015, that 34 million was slashed nearly in half to 18 million. That decline has continued with the projected amount of mineral lease funds for the 6 Special Service Districts to operate on in 2020 down to 7.8 million dollars. District directors have risen to the challenge and made many cuts in recent years but budgets have still run on a deficit and rainy day funds are nearly run dry. Officials say it is now time to make hard decisions on what stays and what goes. Options discussed in Monday’s meeting include the following: consolidating Districts; eliminating or substantially reducing all non-essential services; employee layoffs; dividing costs up between the cities and county; and debt deferral. A member of the public commented that she did not know that these services were provided through mineral lease money rather than taxes and emphasized that the public should be part of the discussion of services that could be cut. During the discussion, Vernal City Council member Ted Munford stated that they have 2 choices: increase revenue or reduce expenses. Increasing revenue means increasing taxes while reducing expenses means reducing services. As the meeting came to a close, officials asked that each District director meet with their board and come back to the table on August 17th with recommendations. A meeting will be held a week later where it's anticipated a final decision on how to move forward will be made.