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Property tax to replace unpopular S. L. County police fee

By John Daley | Posted - Jul. 19, 2011 at 7:05 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Salt Lake County Council voted unanimously July 19 to replace its much-maligned police fee with a property tax. The change follows a vote by Utah lawmakers to strip the county of the ability to collect a fee to pay for law enforcement.

That decision sent the county scrambling to find a way to pay for those police services in the unincorporated part of the county, which cost more than $11 million every year.

Sales tax revenues provide the bulk of funding for municipal services, including police. Thanks to a rough recession, though, those revenues dropped sharply by 30 percent. The county made cuts but still needed to raise millions to make up for the gap.

The solution? A fee for police service, enacted in 2009, which proved very unpopular. Lawmakers forced the county council to find another route. Today, they did just that by voting to replace the police fee with a property tax to be will be levied by the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area.

Services like public works and maintenance will still be funded exclusively through sales tax.

County leaders say the owner of an average home, valued at about $220,000, will see their tax burden go down by $70.

"Because it's based on property value, not use of services, most residents will pay less," said Deputy Mayor Nicole Dunn

But, those with homes valued over $400,000 will actually pay more.

So will large landowners like [Kennecott](<http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=960&sid=16049228 >), which will pay $3 million more. Nevertheless, they like the new plan better. Jana Kettering, a spokesperson called it "more appropriate, and a much more open process."

Non-profit organizations exempt from property taxes like churches and hospitals will no longer pay for police services.

The sheriff says the new plan provides stability and accountability.

"The only way this can go up is with a very robust public hearing process and with a lot of accountability. So, that's what the citizens have demanded. That's what this gives them. It's a good revenue source for critical service," said Jim Winder, Salt Lake County sheriff.

This is not the final vote regarding the matter. It must still be approved by the County Council in its budget for next year, as well as the board of trustees for the new Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area.

Email: jdaley@ksl.com

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