Although much of the debate over the tax initiatives has centered on their effect on education, law enforcement officials want the public to know public safety would also be affected.
* Law enforcement officials from throughout the state warned that the budget cuts mandated by the tax initiatives would leave some communities, primarily those in rural areas, without adequate police protection.Members of the Strategic Planning Committee for Law Enforcement held a press conference Friday to outline some of what they foresee if voters decide to approve the tax initiatives.
The three initiatives on the November ballot would limit property tax rates and government growth, roll back tax increases passed by the 1987 Legislature and give parents whose children are in private schools a tax credit.
Although proponents have said the tax-cutting measures would not have to jeopardize public safety, the law enforcement officials at the press conference said there was no way to spare police and fire departments since they take such a big chunk out of state and local budgets.
And committee members said the reductions would mean layoffs because most of the money spent on public safety goes for the salaries and benefits of police officers, fire fighters, corrections officers and other employees.
"Some of these cuts will leave communities in our state without sufficient police protection," said Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen.
Nielsen said that although there are an average of 2.1 police officers for every 1,000 residents nationwide, there are only an average of only 1.6 police officers for every 1,000 Utahns. In Salt Lake County, that average drops to 1.4 police officers.
Salt Lake County Sheriff N.D. "Pete" Hayward said that $4 million would have to be cut from his budget, a loss that would mean laying off a total of 50 sheriff's deputies, consolidating substations and reducing already-tight jail and investigative budgets.
In Salt Lake City, some 100 police officers and other personnel could lose their jobs. But hardest-hit would be the state's smallest police departments and sheriff's offices.
Many already have only a few officers who are responsible for patrolling vast sections of the least-populated areas of the state or staffing jails.
* A debate on the tax initiatives is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the lecture hall of the Salt Lake Library, 205 E. Fifth South. The debate will be moderated by Richard Halley from the Weber State College communications department. The public is invited.