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Taylorsville residents to pay nearly 10 percent more for fire suppression beginning this year

Feb 01, 2018 03:33AM ● Published by Carl Fauver

Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Petersen appears before the Taylorsville City Council. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

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After waiting nearly a decade to request a property tax funding increase, the Unified Fire Authority sought and gained a nearly 10 percent tax increase during the holiday season. Taylorsville home and business owners — along with their counterparts throughout the UFA service area — will see a 9.56 percent tax increase this fall.

The cost hike will be $23.78 for residents owning a $250,000 home and $43.24 for a similarly valued business.

The Unified Fire Service Area Board of Directors unanimously approved the tax hike — its first since 2009 — a week before Christmas.

Leading up to the board vote, UFA Chief Dan Petersen and UFSA District Administrator Ifo Pili explained the reasoning for the increase to community leaders throughout the county, including to the Taylorsville City Council. 

“If the board does not raise taxes, it could jeopardize our UFSA bond rating and lead to a reduction in support services and staffing,” Petersen said. “This funding increase allows UFA to continue delivering service at current levels. It allows us to ensure a competitive wage for our firefighters and to fund necessary equipment replacement.”

Property taxpayers apparently felt it was a reasonable funding request because the increase passed with no real media attention or public outcry.

“We appeared before all of the governmental jurisdictions UFA serves to explain why the tax increase was needed and to answer questions,” Assistant Fire Chief Jay Ziolkowski said. “Some of the city councils took a vote to show support for the increase, although those were unnecessary and non-binding. More importantly, none of the city councils opposed the increase.”

One of the critical things the Unified Fire Authority wanted to accomplish through the tax increase was to maintain as many four-person crews on their fire engines as possible. The agency currently has four-person crews for 18 of its 24 engines.

“On a fire with no victim inside, a three-person crew must wait for another crew before they can enter the building,” according to information provided by the UFSA. “(The firefighters) can attempt to knock down the fire from the outside, but (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules require two trained, equipped firefighters be outside before a team of two can enter a burning building.”

In short, UFA officials say three-person fire engine crews can often lead to more property damage.

Pili also pointed out to the Taylorsville City Council, fire suppression costs have gone up two to 3 percent per year, even as tax funding has remained unchanged.

“UFSA has been drawing down its financial resources, something that is not sustainable,” he said.

In addition to his duties with the UFSA, Pili is also the Eagle Mountain city administrator, the only Utah County community served by UFA.

When the UFSA board of directors passed the proposed tax increase, former Taylorsville Mayor Larry Johnson was among those voting in favor of it.

“We had 48 members of the public show up at our public hearing a week before the board vote,” Ziolkowski said. “Well, over half of those people addressed the board, but there wasn’t a large outcry against the proposal. It seemed like most people understood that although tax increases are never welcome, sometimes they are necessary.”

 Petersen came into his position just over a year ago. In that time he said a division chief and three assistant fire chief positions have been eliminated. But he expressed concern that additional personnel cuts would likely affect residents.

“This tax increase does not resolve all of our funding issues,” Pili said. “We still have some aging fire stations that will need to be replaced. But, for now, this helps us restore our funding reserve.”

Taylorsville is home to one of UFA’s newest fire stations, which opened on Redwood Road last March. Pili said seismic studies will be completed to help the UFSA determine which of its older stations it will replace next.

The 9.56 percent tax increase will appear in this year’s property tax notices. The UFSA tax adjustment is a one-time increase. Any future increases will require a similar series of public meetings and board approval.

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