Unified Police pay raises approved; Taylorsville property tax increases may be necessary next year
Jul 18, 2019 04:39PM
By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville disbanded its stand-alone police department years ago, with elected officials still pleased by the service Unified Police provides. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
“Reaching a consensus on a $65 million budget is difficult at best, and there was a lot of drama,” said Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson in assessing her recent work on the Unified Police Board of Directors. “[The approved budget increase] was a good step forward, but we need to follow through next year with another increase.”
All of this means Taylorsville homeowners should likely begin preparing now for what is appearing more and more to be an inevitable property tax increase a year from now.
In truth, many observers are surprised Taylorsville officials could support a UPD budget increase this year without a corresponding tax increase.
“Each 1% budget increase for the Unified Police Department amounts to roughly $500,000,” Overson said. “So, the increase our board approved will require more than 4 million new dollars.”
After much haggling over the numbers, the UPD board approved additional funding in three different forms:
- 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA)
- 4% market increase
- 2.75% merit increase
All sworn officers are expected to receive the cost of living and market adjustment pay hikes. However, many senior officers will not be eligible for the merit increases.
“These pay increases are not inconsequential, and we are certainly pleased the board voted for them,” said Taylorsville UPD Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant. “But, honestly, it will still be a challenge to hire and retain quality new officers.”
Wyant’s Taylorsville precinct has almost never been fully staffed in recent years. Despite available money and approvals for new officers, the agency has had a hard time hiring and retaining people because other departments are paying more.
“We used to compete (for personnel) primarily against other law enforcement agencies here in the valley,” Wyant said. “But now, we have to compete against departments in other states that are actively trying to steal our officers. Everett, Washington, for example, is offering $20,000 signing bonuses for officers to join them. Getting and keeping good officers is more competitive than I can ever remember.”
“Next year, we will have to be serious about looking at a tax increase,” Overson said. “We need to remember, we have amazing officers who risk their lives for us every day. Tax increases are uncomfortable to discuss, but if it is for public safety, as this would be, I think most people will understand why it is necessary.”
Taylorsville City Councilman Brad Christopherson certainly does. Several months ago, as various cities Unified Police serve were leaving the agency or considering it, Christopherson led the charge on the council to have the body pass a resolution endorsing the department. More recently, he again voiced strong support during a council meeting.
“I cannot, in good conscience, not do anything for [UPD, financially] this year,” he said, prior to the organization’s board vote, increasing funding. “It would be unconscionable to tell them we have no additional money. If we need to do a tax increase, I would be supportive of that.”
In addition to the little bit of unincorporated Salt Lake County that still remains, Unified Police now serves six communities: Holladay, Kearns, Magna, Midvale, Millcreek and Taylorsville. Department officials have said they will now review their IT, fleet and dispatch divisions to see if budget cuts are possible to create more funding for officer pay.
“I know going in, Mayor Overson was advocating [to her fellow UPD Board of Directors members] a total pay increase of 10.75%, rather than the 8.75% that was approved,” Wyant said. “So, I don’t think this discussion is over. The truth is, although this increase is very important, our salary rates had fallen so far back, this still does not bring us to the middle of the pack.”
Wyant said numerous times he does not want to appear ungrateful. But the reality, he claims, is that qualified police candidates will continue to choose other departments over Unified Police until the gap is closed even more.
“I plan to bring this up with the UPD board again next year,” Overson said. “[Taylorsville residents] are well served by the department. We have no plans to change our police service or to start our own department [again]. Now, we just need to make the officers’ pay competitive.”
All of this means just as homeowners in several other Salt Lake Valley cities have recently endured, a Taylorsville property tax increase is likely less than a year away.