Budget cuts to hit Salt Lake County's new police department

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 4 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

A proposed countywide pay decrease will follow almost 500 outgoing Salt Lake County sheriff's employees as they move to the new Unified Police Department next year. But the cuts may surface in the new agency in other guises, including possible service reductions and increased monthly fees for residents.

The 2.75 percent across-the-board cuts in county salaries is part of county Mayor Peter Corroon's 2010 budget proposal.

On Tuesday, the county council approved a plan to remove $375,000 from the contract payment to UPD for its first year of law enforcement services to residents of unincorporated Salt Lake County. That check, minus what the county would have saved if the employees' wages stayed under the county's purview, amounts to a bit over $9 million after the deduction. It represents one part of a three-tiered payment schedule that also includes a $500,000 fund transfer and $11 million that will be assessed in the form of monthly fees for those receiving services.

Councilman Jim Bradley said the UPD board will have three options to address the reduced contract payment. "Reduction of services, finding additional funding, or passing on the pay reduction" to county residents.

The $11 million in fees would be collected via a monthly billing process, much like a water or sewer bill, and likely amount to about $10 per unincorporated household per month.

Bradley said that current service levels in unincorporated Salt Lake County are slightly better than the minimum rate of one officer per thousand residents, so there is some room for adjustment.

Representatives from Salt Lake County, along with cities currently contracting with the sheriff's department — Bluffdale, Herriman, Holladay and Riverton — will comprise the UPD board and share the financial and policy making responsibilities of the new agency, though Bluffdale is currently considering other options. Sheriff Jim Winder, who will function as the chief operating officer as well as board chairman, said a fiscal solution will need to be found in the next couple of weeks.

"It would be premature to say what adjustments might be made," he said. "But we're going to have to address the issue pretty quickly."

While Winder takes the decision back to the UPD board, Council Chairman Joe Hatch said the reduction should not have come as a surprise, and two of the four mayors from UPD cities he spoke with are OK with the cut.

"Everybody, including the county and all the cities in it, are dealing, and have been dealing, with cutting budgets to deal with the economic decline," Hatch said. "The wage cuts should not have been a news flash for any of the parties involved."

e-mail: araymond@desnews.com

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