SALT LAKE CITY -- An attempt to make major changes to a police user fee in Salt Lake County has resulted in only minor changes to the fee. Thousands of residents and businesses will still be expected to pay up as soon as February.
The Salt Lake County Council tweaked a few of the details in response to outcry at a hearing last week, but in general, the county still expects people to start paying. Residents will pay about $174 a year while businesses could pay tens of thousands more.
On Monday the Council officially adopted the fees, with a slight break for landlords, as well as owners of low-income apartment complexes. Other than that, however, the fee stays in place.
The fee system is a way to offset dropping sales tax revenue -- the portion dedicated to the Unified Police Department. In spite of attempts to make the fee fair, it's still generating lots of frustration, especially for those on a fixed income.
"We're retired, and where are we supposed to get the extra money?" said Ron Opland, a Salt Lake County resident who opposes the new fees.
"It's a fee that would actually devastate affordable housing projects," said Marion Willey, of the Utah Non-profit Housing Corp., "because the one thing is, you can't increase your rent."
Jim Bradley of the Salt Lake County Council explained the Council's actions this way: "We just don't have any more options. I'm not pleased with the enactment of a fee but it seems to make sense in this particular case, and it does have some merit regarding having those who use the service more pay more."
Many see the fee as a thinly-veiled tax increase, but the difference is that it can be reduced or eliminated more easily when revenue grows again.
The fee structure also targets unincorporated areas, not cities who have their own police departments.
County officials from the mayor on down say additional cuts weren't possible without layoffs or reductions of service at the county.