Some Salt Lake County residents concerned about new fee for police force

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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- People in unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County will be paying a new fee next year, and news of the new fee has people buzzing. In the meantime, county officials are struggling to let people know what the new bill is for and what it's not for.

The fee is meant to be a way of avoiding a general property tax increase. But for thousands of people in unincorporated parts of the county, it stings just as much, if not more because for them it is a tax increase.

All the money from the new fee will be dedicated to the Salt Lake County Unified Police Department, what is now known as the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. But, in fact, it is the Salt Lake County Council's overall crisis that created the fee: An $11 million shortfall.

The result will be a $14.50 per month bill to unincorporated Salt Lake County residents every month.

For businesses, the fee will vary from between $6 to $930 a month, based on the business size and record of past police service calls. The money will shore up the county budget through funding the police.

**Proposed public safety monthly fees**
**Single-family homes** $14.50/month
**Mobile homes** $15.50
**Duplexes** $16.50
**Apartments** $19.50
**Auto dealers**$55
**Churches** $73
**Bars and taverns** $75
**Convenience stores w/gas** $330
**Hotels/motels** $600
**Grocery stores** $1,821
**Super stores** $5,945
*Source: Deseret News*

Unified Police Board Chairman Jim Bradley says, "This way people will know exactly what they're paying for law enforcement, and they'll be able to know whether they're getting their money's worth."

Bradley insists people aren't paying more for police service, they're just paying in a different way.

In Kearns -- one of the areas affected -- news of the fee hasn't hit everyone. The owner of Stan's grocery, Stan Kouris, just learned about it and says he supports it.

He says, "They're just a good group of people, and we love the service they've given us, so we'd be willing to pay."

But there are a lot of objections to what amounts to a tax increase and about fairness.

Kearns resident Bill Cox says, "With taxes the way they are today and the economy being in the shape it's in, it's kind of a hard question to answer."

"It shouldn't be based on individual people paying it," says Nora McDonald. "It should be everyone paying it. We all benefit from the police department."

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is frustrated, caught in the middle of a budget crisis just as his department is being reorganized.

Winder says, "People are going to make the misperception that unified police is costing them more. The reality is the service is costing less."

On top of that, the sheriff already cut $4 million from his budget this year. In the big picture, it's the economy that's to blame: less sales tax dollars coming in. The good news might come when that revenue goes back up, and this fee may get another look.


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Richard Piatt


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