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SLC Budget Prioritizes Maintaining High Standard of Service, Providing Equitable and Sustainable Opportunities

Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall’s new 2021-2022 city budget emphasizes financial stability for Salt Lake City, as well as “opportunities for an abundant, transformational, equitable future for all the city’s communities.”

The $350 million budget allocates funds to numerous initiatives and programs that will help Salt Lake City implement recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing as well as expanding support for affordable housing. Salt Lake City will continue to prioritize building a sustainable and resilient city for all residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have had unprecedented access to local government, connecting with departments more than ever. As SLCgreen moves into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, we aim to build from this access, inviting more of our community into the decision making process, and working with the community towards greater sustainability and resiliency for all.

The newly approved budget allows Salt Lake City to continue to invest in critical public services, renewable energy projects, air quality, food access, climate equity, and more, which are described below.

Waste and Recycling Rate Increase

The adopted budget contains a rate increase on garbage containers. As you may recall, the Sustainability Department undertook a large public engagement process in late 2019/early 2020 to evaluate residents’ satisfaction with our waste & recycling services, and to seek feedback on how they’d like to see future rate increases occur.

While we do not take lightly the fact that rate increases impact everyone– and some more than others– we want you to know that we have worked hard for years cutting costs and streamlining our operations to forestall the need for a rate increase. However, it has been nearly seven years since we last raised rates. In that time, the cost of doing business has increased– impacting everything from purchasing and maintaining our refuse vehicles, to disposing of garbage at the landfill, to keeping up with the cost of living. For a couple of years, there were also fees associated with processing the City’s recyclables. (So far in 2021, we have begun to make money again on recycling which is great news. We are committed to maintaining a robust program through the ups and downs of the recycling commodity market).

You can visit this page to learn more about the rate increases, the survey, and what to expect. As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at slcgreen@slcgov.com

Projects on Energy, Food, Air Quality & More

In our policy division, we are moving forward with some impactful and important projects. Here’s a closer look at some of what’s in store for the Sustainability Department’s Energy & Environment Division:

  • Advancing Salt Lake City’s Community Renewable Energy Goals

The Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP), empowered by the Community Renewable Energy Act, H.B. 411, will help Salt Lake City reach its goal of community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. In 2022, Salt Lake City will work with other participating communities to bring Salt Lake City closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity for the whole community. Learn more on the Utah100 Communities’ website.

  • Improving Equitable Access to Healthy Food

In the past year, SLCgreen’s Resident Food Equity Advisors program invited community members to help direct policy and program recommendations to help improve healthy and culturally relevant food access in Salt Lake City. The City budget includes funds for projects aimed to increase access to healthy food in a Healthy Food Priority neighborhood, as well as following through with specific recommendations from the Resident Food Equity Advisors (Stay tuned! We’ll be sharing their full report soon).

Additionally, the budget includes funds to conduct a food system study. This study will help identify challenges and gaps in food access, and help identify ways to equitably and sustainably address these challenges.

  • Air Quality

Clean air is a priority for everyone in the valley. Salt Lake City’s air quality impacts public health as well as our economic well-being. The Mayor’s budget proposal includes $85,000 for a new air quality monitoring project. In partnership with air quality partners and scientists at the University of Utah, Department of Environmental Quality, and Salt Lake County Health Department, Salt Lake City will place additional air quality monitors throughout the city to gather more granular data on air quality.

As part of this project, the City will create a public-facing dashboard for residents to access air quality data and better plan outdoor activities. The data will also help Salt Lake City continue to find opportunities to improve air quality by lowering emissions.

  • Home Efficiency Improvements

The budget includes funds to support direct improvements for 200 of the most energy inefficient homes in our community. By improving energy efficiency, residents will be able to save money and support Salt Lake City’s efforts to reduce emissions. These efforts will leverage weatherization and utility programs and provide up-front funding to improve access to these programs.

  • Climate Equity

Part of the budget proposes $200,000 to embark on a multi-year community driven climate planning process. This work will align with the City’s Equity Plan, which is in development. In the upcoming fiscal year, Salt Lake City will convene a policy lab to help us learn about the challenges faced by low-income customers and create policy solutions.

Just as the advancing the 100% renewable energy program will help Salt Lake City achieve our climate goals, this climate and equity planning process will ensure that our work improves the lives of vulnerable and historically marginalized residents.  

As community engagement expands and takes new and innovative forms, SLCgreen is looking forward to working more directly with our communities to guide policy and equitable sustainability action. The insights and experiences of Salt Lake City’s community members can help shape a more resilient city.

We look forward to staying in touch on these projects over the next year and beyond!

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