The recent Kane County Economic Summit sponsored by the Center for Education, Business and the Arts was a marvelous event because of its celebration of local entrepreneurs. However, it was also sobering in that Walt Busse from the Governors Office of Planning and Budget confirmed the budget challenges facing all Utah cities including Kanab. He explained the current economic recession began in 2005 and only now appears to be bottoming out. If we are indeed at the bottom of the economic decline, it will take two to three years for the economy to recover its losses. Property values are down, which impacts property tax revenues, and sales tax collections are lagging as well. Utah’s economic numbers have paralleled those of our nation and Kane County’s economic numbers have paralleled those of the state as a whole.

So what does this mean for Kanab City? Please understand, every city in America is facing economic challenges. Kanab is not immune from the factors impacting the rest of the world. You may have heard Kanab City revenues are down and you may have wondered if the city services will be affected. In many ways the city is like a family whose income drops for some reason. The family must learn to live within its means and the city must do the same. There is a need for adjustments and we will do what is necessary to assure the fiscal integrity of our community.

Your city leaders have been aware of the impacts of our declining economy for quite some time now. For the last two years, a conscious decision was made to use revenues from the sale of the golf course and power system as a “rainy day fund” in much the same manner as the Utah State Legislature. By doing so, we have not had to reduce services or increase taxes. Unfortunately, we can no longer do so. If it will be two years before the economy begins to improve and it could take another three years before we get back to where we were prior to the recession: we cannot wait that long.

Between now and when the budget is passed at the end of June, the City Council and I will be considering how to address our economic challenges. One of the primary reasons we hired Duane Huffman as our new city manager was his experience in dealing with budget shortfalls in Arizona. It is our intent to be as transparent as possible in our process.

Rather than having our citizens show up, or not, as too often is the case, to a public hearing where information is disclosed, we will be publishing information to help you better understand critical budget-related issues.

The solutions will not be without some sacrifice for us all and the options are limited. We can cut services and increase efficiencies. We can adjust utility rates, charge user fees or identify new revenue sources. We can also raise taxes. Raising taxes is the last option, but that may be an option we have to consider after we have addressed all other solutions.

To help understand the decisions the city council and I will be facing, we will publish articles explaining the situation with the sales and resort tax, property taxes, user fees and steps we will be considering to cut expenses.

We hope you will take the time to read these articles, then come to the public hearings that are held to express your opinions. We look forward to your input and ideas.