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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Residents and businesses in unincorporated Salt Lake County soon will see a new bill in the mail. Starting Jan. 1, the new Unified Police Department will replace the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Earlier this week, county leaders gave preliminary approval to a fee that would generate close to $12.8 million annually for the new police department.
The fee, which the board will vote on after public input in early January, comes after a tough financial year for the county. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon says sales tax revenue for the county has dropped by 30 percent since 2007. That, plus losses on investment earnings in 2009 resulted in cutting the 2010 law enforcement budget by 6.1 percent.The Unified Police Department will cost less than the current sheriff's office. But Corroon says the county still is short funding.
"You'll get a bill like you get your gas or electric bill in the mail. We'd ask citizens in the unincorporated parts of Salt Lake County to recognize that is something they will need to pay," Corroon says.
Even with a downsized budget and looming financial woes, council members say UPD is still going to be less expensive for residents because the money is being re-directed from property taxes already being paid.
Council member Jim Bradley says, "The down side is that a fee system is relatively new and people have a tough time with change and a system like this. But I think over time people will learn to appreciate this much more than just paying a lump sum property tax and not really knowing where it goes."
The new bill or "fee," as it's being called, will cost a single family home owner about $170 a year. An apartment resident will have a slightly higher bill, closer to $230 a year. That's because the fee is not based on property value but how often police are called to an area.
"Apartment complexes would pay a little bit more because there is traditionally more police calls that are required at an apartment building," Corroon explains.
Large businesses such as big-box stores will see some of the largest fees.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder says, "With this fee coming up, people are going to make the misperception that the Unified Police Department is costing them more. The reality is the services cost less. The reality is the county had a deficit to make up and they're doing it through a law enforcement fee."
The first quarterly bill could show up in February.
Around April residents will start seeing newly marked police cars and new blue UPD uniforms, which will be paid for out of a separate uniform budget. By June of next year the transition will be complete.