Wednesday, September 5, 2012

City Council 9/5/2012 and the Fire District

Citizen Doug Shupe spoke during citizen comment time to give kudos to the city for their good service. He was thrilled that public works started on Labrum Park, happy that the police department responded so quickly to a graffiti call, and grateful that the fire department responded so quickly to a medical call.

Jerry and Shirley Milne won the "Best of Taylorsville" award this month for their beautiful and well-kept yard. If residents could do one thing to help their neighborhood, it would be to weed their own yard and help weed someone else's yard.

Battalion Fire Chief Jay Ziolkowski gave his quarterly report. During his report and at the end of the council meeting questions were asked about joining the Fire District. Here is some additional information about the Fire District:

Currently the City of Taylorsville is a member of Unified Fire Authority (UFA) through an interlocal agreement for our fire, emergency medical services and other related emergency responses, and pays approximately $3.9 million annually for these services. 

The city has the highest population density of any city in Utah, and because of that warrants a higher need for public safety response. Elected officials take this matter seriously, and have stated that the safety of our residents is their number one priority. 

At present, Taylorsville is a net importer of fire services, representing just over 15 percent of the overall UFA responses but contributing only 8.2 percent to the overall budget.  Additionally, one national standard suggests a staffing level of one firefighter per thousand residents, but current levels within the city are just over .6 per thousand.  As you can imagine, asking for charity from our neighbors can only work for so long, as other agencies on a regular basis enter into the city to augment emergency needs.

Because of these issues, the city council approved a move to Salt Lake Valley Fire Service Area District, which is also a member of UFA. 

The Salt Lake Valley Fire Service Area District does not provide the actual fire services, but is a funding mechanism to pay for the services. The District has the ability to levy property taxes which are then forwarded to UFA for our fire services. Currently unincorporated Salt Lake County, Herriman, Riverton, and Midvale are part of the District. 

Pros of Joining the District: 
  1. The city receives additional coverage - one additional person at Station 117, and two additional at Station 118, with consideration given for more personnel once the new station is complete (see point two).
  2. Immediate plans for construction of a third fire station built within the city.
  3. Necessary capital improvements can be made to an aging Station 117, which the city does not have funds for at present, nor would the city need to worry about future capital improvements to Station 118.
  4. The above stated fits with the city's historical "pay as you go" mentality. The District covers all the costs of major infrastructure expenditures.  For example, the city would not need to bond for a $3 million dollar fire station.
  5. Some previous revenues used to fund fire services are freed up for the city to use in other vital areas.
Cons of Joining the UFA District:
  1. The city council gives up their taxing authority over the fire department (but does have an elected official vote at both the District Board and UFA Board levels).
  2. Long term commitment: Removing the city from the District would require a referendum majority vote of the people.
Joining the Fire District means residents would see a separate line item next year on their property tax notice for fire services. The City Council would then lower the city tax. The law requires at least a 20 percent decrease, but during last year's budget, the council mentioned possibly lowering it 50 percent or more.

The decision on how much to lower the city portion of property taxes will be made next June when the next fiscal year budget is discussed.

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