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Wellington trims budget, will seek legislative help

Sun Advocate Reporter

Wellington City's budget for the year ahead reduces city spending on municipal services by more than $100,000 from this year. The City Council unanimously adopted its fiscal year 2011 budget Wednesday, calling for $724,800 in the general fund. For fiscal year 2010, which ends on June 30, the budget was $843,500.

Much of the reduction in basic city spending is the result of a sales tax exemption for certain mining equipment granted by the Utah Legislature. Mayor Ben Blackburn told the council that he will be heading to the State Capitol on June 23 to discuss the situation with the Interim Revenue and Taxation Committee.

He hopes to persuade legislators to allow Wellington and other impacted cities to levy a one percent municipal sales tax on mining goods. A one-half percent tax would not be enough, he said in an interview after the meeting, so he is going to lobby for the full one percent.

Mayor Blackburn said he has been dealing with Rep. Christine Watkins (D-Price) and Sen. David Hinkins (R-Orangeville) to alleviate the city's plight. The mayor said he will be supported by other cities because the current exemption extends to such things as sand and gravel operations and hard rock mining as well as coal.

Rep. Watkins has already been busy on the issue. In the last legislative session, she was chief sponsor of HB 203, a bill that would have repealed the mining equipment exemption. That bill failed. "It was viewed as a tax increase," she said Thursday. The representative agreed with Mayor Blackburn that other cities are in the same boat fiscally because of the exemption. Towns in Emery County, the Uintah Basin and other places that depend on mining have also experienced a downturn in revenue.

Rep. Watkins explained that the impact on cities was an "unintended consequence" of the original legislation, which was written to help the state's mining industries during the 2008 session. She said she is not giving up on trying to help the cities, and will join in trying to convince the Revenue and Taxation Committee to get a legislative fix.

Wellington has already done some belt tightening to cope with the situation. The city did not replace one police officer who resigned and laid off one clerical worker.

In other budgetary matters, the council, acting as the Wellington Redevelopment Agency, approved a $19,000 budget for FY 2011. It is now considering projects to invest the money in its industrial area on Ridge Road.

The budget hearings were open to public comment, but no citizens voiced an opinion.

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