Monticello discusses police staffing issues and a $100,000 drop in sales tax collections

Police staffing issues were the chief concern at the February 11 meeting of the Monticello City Council.

The police department has three police officers, making time off and 24-hour staffing throughout the week an issue. Officers report frequent burnout.  

With one officer leaving the department, the city will face a serious shortage. During the time a new officer will complete Police Officer Standards and Training (POST), the city will have only two officers for nearly six months, unless a lateral officer is hired. 

Mayor Tim Young expressed frustration that the issue is at hand again and seeks a more permanent solution. Councilmembers expressed a desire to keep the police department and to add a fourth officer, but budget constraints don’t make it feasible to add a fourth officer. 

The council discussed other solutions, including a possible contract with the county for police service or funding a fourth officer through a property tax increase. 

Councilmember Bayley Hedglin emphasized the need to seek feedback from city residents regarding the matter.

City Manager Doug Wright also discussed an audit of city finances. Of particular note are four accounts that overspent and a $100,000 drop in sales tax collections from 2018.

Councilmembers were
surprised at the sales tax drop. Following the city council meeting, Wright reviewed the figures to determine where the “loss” occurred. 

In an email to the San Juan Record, Wright wrote, “The difference stems from the way the county has changed its sharing of Transient Room Tax (TRT) funds.

“In the recent past, the County provided $70,000 to Monticello and Blanding from TRT collections to support our marketing efforts.  

“With the incorporation of Bluff, the county changed its practice and now requires a marketing plan from each incorporated city in the county.

“With an approved plan, it will provide funds up to the amount collected by the cities in their city TRT, which effectively cut the county allocation to Monticello in half.

“This year we received our county TRT after the end of the fiscal year, so it does not show in the FY2019 audit.

“It was roughly $34,500.  We will receive additional TRT this fiscal year, so it will appear to be a double dose in FY2020.

“Thus, the city collected approximately $66,425 less in sales and franchise taxes in FY19 than it did in FY18.  If the county had continued its practice of giving $70,000, we would have collected more than in FY18. 

“If the city had received the county TRT before June 30, then the loss would have only been around $35,000.”

At the meeting, Wright updated councilmembers on recent maintenance issues in the city.

Maintenance issues at the Welcome Center are being addressed, and Emery Telecom is running fiber into the city buildings that didn’t have it already.

The new fiber lines should fix the phone issues the city has been having. 

In other business, the council heard a report from new Parks and Recreation Director Shane Christensen. Christensen has been working to get more involvement in youth sports by improving communication in the schools. 

Four more boys and 14 more girls enrolled in basketball this year compared with last year as a result of better recruiting through the school.

There was also discussion with councilmembers on how to improve communication and participation in recreation programs. 

A community member in attendance expressed frustration with communication between the recreation department and residents of the city, particularly those who do not receive communication through the schools. 

Currently, many parents are not aware of programs being offered. Christensen acknowledged the department could improve and is working to do so. 

Christensen is focused on not only maintaining programs, but building programs back up and getting the whole community involved with more adult sports.  

The city concession stand at the ballpark was also discussed with the potential departure of a longtime vendor. 

The city offered support for Christensen’s efforts and praised his work to build recreational programs.

The council canceled council meetings on March 10 and April 14. The April 14 meeting is rescheduled for April 9 and the March 24 work meeting is changed to a regular council meeting. 

Public comment was made by a resident regarding snow removal. Of particular concern is the blocked pedestrian walkways on the corner of Main and Center streets.

Two of the corners are currently unoccupied and the tenants would normally be responsible for clearing the snow. 

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