Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fire District Hearing

Tonight the Salt Lake Valley Fire District held a public hearing on whether Taylorsville City should be annexed by the Fire District.

The Taylorsville City Council voted to join the District during their budget hearings in June. Joining the District means Taylorsville residents would become part of a special improvement district which would fund fire service with Unified Fire Authority.

Currently the city is a net importer of fire services, which becomes problematic as other fire departments are asked to assist the city for emergency fire and medical services. Taylorsville uses 15 percent of the UFA budget, but only pays 8.2 percent into the budget.

"On principle, it is just not right to expect others to pay for what we use. It's time we pay our fair share," said Mayor Russ Wall during the public hearing.

Almost 100 residents attended the public hearing and dozens spoke against the change. Most had concerns about the seemingly high increase in taxes. Others were concerned that the city council was giving up their taxing authority.

As we spoke with residents in the lobby, we realized that many did not have enough information about this issue. Residents want to know exactly what their taxes will be. By law, the council must lower the city tax by at least 20 percent. After getting input from the residents tonight, several council members expressed a desire to make that decision as soon as possible so residents know what the tax impact will be.

Another item that needs to be clarified is the amount of savings that joining the District will be for Taylorsville taxpayers. If taxpayers are going to pay for the fire service that is used, they will need to, at a bare minimum, fund additional staff and equipment. With the current proposal by the District, approximately 12 additional firefighters would be added to serve the city. If the city were to fund just the personnel, it would be $1.4 million per year. That would be roughly a 34 percent tax increase just for personnel, if we did not join the District.

Another way to look at the savings is to consider that currently our contract with UFA is $3.9 million. If we join the District, the amount of tax collected by the District equals $4.2 million. For $300,000 per year, we are getting over $1.4 million in personnel, a new fire station, and added equipment.

We will be running the numbers over the next few days and will post our findings here and on the city's website. Stay tuned...

Click here to learn more about the pros and cons of the Fire District

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