West Jordan, Murray, others raising property taxes — is Taylorsville next?
Aug 21, 2018 02:03PM
● By Jana Klopsch
Taylorsville officials remain in strong support of sticking with the Unified Police Department, so residents continue to have access to this type of specialized law enforcement equipment, which “stand-alone” agencies often can’t afford. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
There’s been plenty of high drama and intrigue regarding the Unified Police Department in recent months.
Herriman City announced it is abandoning its contract with UPD for law enforcement. That city hired away its UPD Precinct Chief Troy Carr to run a new stand-alone police department.
Several weeks later, Riverton officials held an “emergency,” 7 a.m. meeting to also vote to abandon UPD. But they agreed to give the law enforcement agency a full year advanced warning. And Riverton City Council members are reserving the right to change their minds.
Meanwhile — with the election now just two months away — Salt Lake County Sheriff candidate Justin Hoyal claims it’s all Rosie Rivera’s fault. She’s the relatively new sheriff he’s challenging in November. Rivera has held the post just over a year, following the departure of veteran Sheriff Jim Winder.
Even decided to weigh in on the issue, holding a news conference in Moab, where he’s now the city police chief.
But in the midst of the law enforcement soap opera, Taylorsville City is steering clear of the drama. In essence, city council members seem to collectively be saying “been there, done that” with regard to a stand-alone police force.
After having its own city police department — from 2004 to 2012 — Taylorsville voted to join Unified Police (essentially to “rejoin” the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Department) six years ago. City property owners were told it would save them tax dollars.
Kristie Overson was a freshman city council member at the time. Now, as freshman mayor — and a member of the UPD board of directors — she still believes the 2012 move back with the valley wide agency was the right one.
“Contracting with Unified Police gives our citizens access to state-of-the-art equipment, and special law enforcement units, that single city police departments normally can’t afford,” she said. “I remain firmly in support of our contract with UPD, and I think the city council feels the same.”
At a recent Taylorsville City Council meeting, Chairman Brad Christopherson was even more succinct.
“Herriman is claiming it will save money,” he said. “I don’t see it; it will be more expensive.”
However, while it appears Taylorsville is successfully sidestepping the stay-or-go drama regarding Unified Police, the council is not expected to avoid another thorny dilemma — at least not much longer.
More than three decades ago, the state legislature passed the Truth in Taxation law that requires a public hearing whenever a local government raises property tax revenues beyond what was collected the previous year, along with the additional revenue generated by new growth.
Those public hearings are often filled with wish-we-had-pitchforks-and-boiling-tar property owners. Taxing entities such as school boards, special service districts and city councils tend to avoid them as long as possible.
But those long delays can lead to the types of proposed tax increases now being considered in several Utah cities:
· Tooele – 114 percent property tax increase proposed
· Murray – 45 percent
· Cottonwood Heights – 22 percent proposed, 13.4 was passed
· West Jordan – 20 percent
According to the Utah State Tax Commission, 53 cities and school, water and special service districts want to raise taxes this year.
At the moment, Taylorsville is not among them.
“Our budget is set for now,” Overson said. “The natural time (for the city council to consider a property tax increase) would be next spring (when talk begins regarding the July 2019 to June 2020 fiscal year budget). I don’t see us doing anything prior to that.”
However, several city council members expressed concern during one of their recent meetings, that a tax bump may be necessary then, to continue funding police service.
Taylorsville UPD Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant has been reporting for months, possibly years, his department is short on officers. He said police candidates are applying for jobs with jurisdictions that pay more. And he believes it’s only a matter of time before UPD will have to increase its starting salaries to keep up.
When that happens, City Council Chairman Brad Christopherson said it will cost Taylorsville property owners.
“In order to raise police salaries 10 percent in Taylorsville, we would have to raise property taxes by 30 percent,” he said. “UPD officers need to be fairly compensated. They put their lives on the line for us. We have to be able to pay for these people.”
Several other council members expressed the same general sentiment: “We don’t want to discuss tax increases … but, next year, it may be unavoidable.”
Councilwoman Meredith Harker punctuated the conversation saying, “It’s unfortunate ‘taxes’ has become a dirty word. We need them to run our city.”
Ironically, the Taylorsville City Council authorized a tax cut just a few years ago to fulfill a promise made to property owners at the time the city returned its law enforcement duties to Unified Police. Now it appears an increase may be just a few months away.