The Utah Log Cabin Republicans encourages the Salt Lake County Council to oppose the Salt Lake County Mayor’s proposed 2023 budget. For more information about the reasons to oppose this budget, see below.
Dear Salt Lake County Councilmembers,
I am writing to ask that you oppose the Salt Lake County Mayor’s 2023 budget package as written for the following reasons:
This budget represents a 29% increase over the original 2022 budget adopted by the County Council last year.
The budget continues to fund more than 3 deputy mayor positions. County Code requires that the Mayor appoint 3 deputy mayors. All other deputy mayors are not required and should be defunded through the budget process. We recommend starting with Deputy Mayor Catherine Kanter, who oversees duplicate planning services.
Finally, we are concerned about the $2,000,000 proposed contribution of taxpayer money to the Utah AIDS Foundation. Neither the County Mayor nor the Utah AIDS Foundation has presented sufficient evidence about what unmet need this proposal will fulfill. When giving money to private organizations, the County Council must be vigilant to ensure that the money is not wasted or being spent to provide a service that is already being provided by Salt Lake County’s government or entities already being funded by the County like CHC, Inc. and the University of Utah Healthcare.
In June 2022, the Council enacted a mid-year 18% increase to its 2022 budget. The Council’s proposed budget for 2023 increases the budget an additional 9% over the adjusted 2022 budget. Measuring the proposed increase for 2023 against this mid-year increase masks the true extent of how our budgets in Salt Lake County, with a Republican-majority County Council, are increasing.
According to the op-ed written by Councilmember Laurie Stringham, until 2013, there was only one deputy mayor in Salt Lake County. County Mayor Ben McAdams increased the number of deputy mayors from 1 to 4. Mayor Jenny Wilson increased the number further to 6, 3 deputy mayors and 3 associate deputy mayors. For clarity, Salt Lake County Code 2.06A.020(A)(3) states that “A designated associate deputy mayor shall be considered a deputy for all purposes established by Utah statute.” Thus, under our County Code, individuals with the title deputy mayor and associate deputy mayor are all “deputy mayors.”
Further, under Salt Lake County Code 2.06.020(A), Mayor Wilson “shall appoint three deputy mayors . . . .” The legal basis for the additional 3 “deputy mayors” is unclear. At least 3 of these individuals should be cut from the budget. As a suggestion, the Council should start by dismissing Deputy Mayor Catherine Kanter for the reasons stated above.
Utah AIDS Foundation
The Utah AIDS Foundation has asked Salt Lake County to contribute $2,000,000:
$1.3 million of this is to build out and equip a new clinic
The remaining $700,000 is to pay for salary and operating costs for the clinic for less than a year (UAF says annual costs will be $852,000).
UAF says this is part of their efforts to raise a total of $6 million, $1 million of which will come from UAF’s sale of a building.
To support this proposal, UAF submitted a slide presentation with many assertions about the care being provided to the LGBTQ+ community by the medical industry in Salt Lake County. The presentation also states that “We don’t have LGBTQ+ specific health data for Utah but we know that extreme disparities exist”. Without data about Utah, it is impossible to know whether this will be fulfilling an actual need.
In addition, UAF made the following concerning statements about the availability of health care in Salt Lake County:
– Waitlists for medical care are on average 3-6 months
– Waitlists for mental health care is up to 1-2 years
It is unclear at this time what the basis is for these statements. For example, one can schedule on the same day or within 24 hours, an appointment for HIV/STI tests with the County Health Dept. UAF states they can schedule a mental health therapist within the week. The Pride Center seems to take longer to schedule and their therapist services cost $165 per session. The Pride Center can bill a patient’s insurer; UAF cannot at this time, but they offer grants.
The presentation also raises concerns about whether our County Health Department, run by Dr. Angela Dunn who is also a board member of UAF, is discriminating against or providing inadequate care to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Has Dr. Dunn received complaints about the services being provided by the County Health Department from members of the LGBTQ+ community? If yes, has the County Council reviewed those complaints to see whether they have been adequately addressed by Dr. Dunn and the County Health Department?
We submitted questions to the County Mayor and County Council about the proposal and the various statements made by UAF in their proposal. In response, Mayor Wilson provided generalizations without any evidence to justify the proposed use of taxpayer money.
To date, no one has provided evidence showing that this facility will fulfill an unmet need in Salt Lake County that is not already being provided or could be provided by the County Health Department or another organization. Without that evidence, we cannot support this proposal.
In addition, it is unclear how much of the remaining $3 million UAF has actually raised. Karen Crompton provided a list of organizations that have committed to and are having conversations about providing funding to UAF. That list does not contain the dollar amount of these committed donations or potential donations. There is a risk that UAF will have to come back for additional funding if it is unable to secure funding from other sources.
At this time, we ask that the County Council reject this proposal until Mayor Wilson or UAF provide additional data showing what unmet needs this facility will fulfill. In the alternative, we ask that the County Council vote to escrow the $2 million until UAF is able to raise the additional $3 million that it has committed to raising.