Thursday, March 2, 2017

City Council 21-Feb-2017: Cemetery Fee Work Session, Staff Pay Grades, Public Info Plan for Roads, Water Conservation Plan

15 residents (9 scouts) were in attendance for the council meeting; none were at the cemetery work session. We again were able to accomplish a fair amount of work during the meetings Smile.

Cemetery Fee Work Session

2017-02-21 Cemetery Plot Price ComparisonThe cemetery work session was the 2nd one we’ve held to understand what we need to charge for cemetery plots so that we end up with a fund that will generate sufficient interest income to cover the cost of cemetery operations once all the plots are sold. Note, Tim Irwin brought this up as an issue we should work on last year.

Zion’s Bank was contracted to do an analysis of what what our options are. Matt Millis of Zion’s Bank reviewed a model which they developed to help us determine an answer to this question. We also needed to provide some guidance on three questions so that the analysis could proceed:

1. What percentage of the cemetery’s operating costs should the city bear?

The cemetery can be viewed in some ways as a park. It provides open space and is open to the public as a place to walk or sit. Brian Braithwaite felt that something in the range of 10% to 20% fair. I said I had no strong opinions but would be OK with anything between 25% for 50%. Tim Irvin thought it should be more than 20% so we ended up settling on 25%. We had no data to backup our opinions but did have a good discussion.

2. Should the cemetery fund reimburse the general fund for the cost of the cemetery land?

Yes, but we agreed that the city should bear 25% of of that cost (see answer to #1). Note, the cost was $1.064M.

3. How frequently should the cost of plots and fees be adjusts?

We were presented with several options and estimates as to where we would be given the following basic assumptions:

  1. All plots will be sold by 2096 (80 years @ 97 plots per year).
  2. Burials will be completed by 2131 (47-123 buried annually).
  3. Current cost of maintenance is $54,244 per year. We determined that this did not include the cost of depreciating assets such as the fence which will need to be repaired / replaced on a periodic basis.
  4. The perpetual care fund would be deposited in the UPTIF (Utah Public Trust Investment Fund) which has averaged 2.8% interest over the last 20 years. The model developed used a 2% interest and 3% inflation rate (to be conservative)  State Code 31A-18-105 would allow the cemetery perpetual funds to be invested in other vehicles such as bonds which would provide higher long-term returns.

We agreed that the plot costs and fees should be adjusted annually.

We agreed that the city should bear 25% of the ongoing cost of operations for the cemetery and that the cemetery fund repay 75% of the cost of purchasing the land. We also agreed to increase plot costs and cemetery fees annually. The amount yet to be finalized. The annual costs need to be updated to including depreciating assets.  We would also like to look at using alternate investment vehicles. Ed deals with long-term investments as part of his job and brings a lot of value to this issue.

Click here to review the Zion’s Bank presentation.



  • None


  1. MOTION: Approval of Meeting Minutes for the City Council Regular Session – February 7, 2017: Click here to view the minutes. Ed Dennis moved that this item be continued to the next council meeting as there were revisions that needed to be made. The motion was unanimously approved. Note, we send the audio of the minutes to an outside contractor who summarizes the meeting. I noticed a number of the comments were attributed to the wrong council member.  Ed may have noted additional items.


  1. MOTION: Approval of Highland City Pay Grades. Click here to view background info from agenda. Note, this link contains a copy of the 2016 Utah Employee Benefit Study by FirstWest Benefit Solutions (pages 22-29). This is an interesting read for anyone employed in Utah.

    We contracted with a firm, Personnel Systems and Services, to help develop new pay grades for the various city staff positions. The results of the study was presented to council (click here to view a copy of the presentation). Each position was graded on four criteria:

    1. Job Knowledge 40% (required knowledge, skill, and training)
    2. Responsibility 35% (accountability and controls)
    3. Difficulty of Work 15% (judgement needed, complexity)
    4. Work Environment 10% (physical effort, working conditions)

    A nice aspect to using this model is that we now have a set of criteria we can use to re-evaluate specific positions when there are changes to any of the factors listed.

    These factors were combined to give each position a numeric value. Salary and benefit information 76 other Utah cities, counties, and districts were used to come up with a min/max range for each position. In looking at Highland staff salary for most positions we below the salary mid point, a couple that are at or above the max and several where we are below the min. The chart below shows the min/mid/max salary ranges based on job values and where Highland fits individually (purple dots) and as an average (dark line).
    2017-02-21 Salary Survey 
    In general the council was pleased with the result but Tim Irwin did express a concern that we need to be careful in using comparisons to be sure that if other cities are walking over a cliff that we don’t follow.

    The council unanimously approved the position rating system that was developed. Staff management will develop a plan for aligning the salaries and benefits.

    2017-02-21 Compensation Study 1

  2. MOTION: Authorize Staff to Proceed with a Public Information and Education Campaign – Potential Property Tax Increase for Road Maintenance and Repair. Click here to view background info from agenda. After some discussion as to the details of how much we need (my current estimate is about $1M in additional funding per year) and whether a fee or a tax would be better the council agreed that we staff should proceed with the planning required to formally communicate with residents about the need for funding and what vehicle we will recommend. We discussed the importance of staff providing information to residents rather than appearing to support or oppose a tax or fee increase.

    Differences between Property Tax and Fee
    Tax Fee
    Provides an income tax deduction. Not deductible from income tax.
    Distributes cost to property owners based on the value of their property. Distributes cost to property owners evenly.
    Not paid by tax exempt groups (Alpine School District, churches). Paid by all property owners.

    We will need a final recommendation from staff on how to implement the study. This could impact the initial cost estimates. For example, if a seal coat and patching was the recommended treatment for a road but in reviewing the road staff noted that poor drainage was an issue then the road may need to be rebuilt in order to fix the drainage problem.

    Ed Dennis brought up the need to look at all options to increase revenue but had no specific ideas to discuss. The council was not opposed to anyone exploring options. It was noted that in a previous meeting the council had authorized $20,000 to be spent on an economic development study.
  3. RESOLUTION: Approving the Water Conservation Plan Update for 2017. Click here to view background info from agenda.  The state requires that cities maintain a water conservation plan that shows how water is being used and what steps we are being taken to conserve it. Our plan was created in 2006. This is the second update. One of the city’s challenges is that our pressurized irrigation system is not a metered service (residents can’t measure their usage).

    After a little discussion on things like smart irrigation controllers the council unanimously approved the plan update.

    Below is a chart showing Highland’s use of Drinking (Culinary) and PI water.
    2017-02-21 Historical Water Usage Stats
    You will note that we’ve done a good job managing our culinary water but not so much on our PI water (as is to be expected). A smart sprinkler controller can help manage PI water use. These controllers are connected to the Internet and check weather sites to adjust the watering schedule. They have apps that can be installed on your phone so that you can turn individual circuits on and off without running back and forth to the control box. The city is planning to replace existing park sprinkler controllers with  smart controllers that will work using mobile wireless connections. This should drastically reduce the number of times we see the parks being watered while it is raining.

    The Central Utah Water District has a rebate program (50% of the cost up to $150) that can be used if you purchase an approved sprinkler controller (click here for more info). I have a Skydrop controller and my neighbor has one made by Rachio. They are both eligible for the rebate and we are both very happy with our respective unites. Skydrop was invented and is currently funded by Alpine/Highland residents.
    2017-02-21 Sky Drop Controller

  4. RESOLUTION: Approving the Municipal Wastewater Planning Program Report for 2016. Click here to view background info from agenda.  The Department of Environmental Quality requires cities to complete the Municipal Wastewater Planning Program Report on a yearly basis. The council unanimously approved the plan.


  • Annual Report – Erin Wells, Assistant to the City Administrator. Erin walked us through highlights of what will be in this year’s annual report. Below are some of the more interesting charts from her presentation. Click here for the full presentation.
    2017-02-21 Social Media Stats
    2017-02-21 Building Permit Stats
    2017-02-21 General Fund

  • 40 Year Celebration - Erin Wells, Assistant to the City Administrator.  This year Highland will be 40 year old (Ruby Jubilee). This will be highlighted at the Fling with some fun activities. The council was asked to share any ideas. Residents feel free to share any ideas you have with Erin (

  • Election Update – JoD’Ann Bates, City Recorder. Jody shared a draft election calendar for this years municipal elections and then solicited are views on how to conduct voting. There are two basic options available to us this year:

    1. Vote by Mail Only: The county is purchasing new voting machines this year that will tally vote by mail only ballots. Note, the existing machines are no longer supported and the state offered to fund the purchase of vote-by-mail tally machines. They have offered to run take care of both primary and general elections for cities this year at a cost of $15,000 for each. Our cost is about $12,000 each. This would be the first time the county will be using these machines and participating cities would essential be guinea pigs. 
    2. Traditional voting (election day, early voting, & absentee).

    After some discussion the council elected to go the less expensive and non-guinea pig route – traditional voting. We also elected to consolidate voting for both primary and general elections at city hall rather than hold them at multiple locations.

    Click here to view the election options presentation.

  • Park Maintenance Bldg. – Mayor Mark Thompson. The mayor commented that in his view the best available location to build a park maintenance building is on part of the undeveloped Mountain Ridge park. There was not a lot of discussion other than to ask staff to provide options for building it there at a future meeting.

  • Ongoing Items - Staff
    Rod: Asked staff to confirm that a review of the city trails is scheduled for this summer. Yes
    Ed: Expressed concern about the division of expenses between city and open space parks. Staff was asked to review this issue.


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