Jeff Robinson
January 6, 2010

Businesses in unincorporated Salt Lake County will sound off on the county’s plans to charge them a fee to pay for the new Unified Police Department at a hearing tonight.  Kennecott Utah Copper spokeswoman Jana Kettering says the $1.3 million charge the company will incur under the proposal is disproportionately high.

“That would put us at paying 10 percent of the fee that they’re trying to raise.  We do not use 10 percent of the service,” Kettering says.  “We have our own security, we have some of our own fire, we have EMS on site, and we have a secure perimeter.  Therefore, we are not a high utilizer of county law enforcement services.”

The county says while the Unified Police Department will actually be less expensive than the former Sheriff’s Office, the new fees are necessary because of declining sales tax revenues.  It would apply to homeowners as well, though they would pay only $174 a year, while large businesses would pay several times more.

Utah Taxpayers Association Vice President Royce Van Tassell complains that elected officials didn’t want to make the politically unpopular decision of raising property taxes, so they’re charging a fee instead.  He says this is unfair to business owners.

“It’s an election year, and people don’t want to face the voters if they have very transparently tried to raise the property tax, and so instead, what they want to do is minimize the impact on people who actually go out and vote, they want to minimize the actual transparency by not providing that individualized notification that every taxpayer gets when you go through truth-in-taxation,” says Van Tassell.

The fee would also apply to organizations that traditionally don’t pay taxes, like hospitals and churches.  Tonight’s hearing begins at 6 p.m. at the Sheriff’s Administration Building in South Salt Lake.