It's official: The price tag was too high and property-tax increase too steep for Salt Lake City residents to support Proposition 1.
The $192 million proposed public safety bond was defeated by 263 votes 21,269 to 21,006, according to results of the official election canvass announced Tuesday. The 2,416 valid provisional and absentee ballots made an already close vote closer by 28 votes but didn't change the outcome.
The bond would have paved the way for five new public safety structures at three locations. About $100 million of the bond was slated to go toward a new public safety building to replace the nearly 50-year-old building at 315 E. 200 South, which public safety officials have called "dilapidated" and even "unsafe."
But the $192 million price tag and its accompanying property-tax increase of $175 per year on a $300,000 home made the bond a tough sell. The proposal also had several high-profile opponents, including Mayor Rocky Anderson, Salt Lake County Council members Joe Hatch, Randy Horiuchi and Jim Bradley and the Utah Taxpayers Association.
Plans for the $192 million bond called for a new public safety building, an emergency operations center and a combined parking/evidence storage structure to be grouped as a downtown public safety campus.
The bond also would have paid for a new west-side fire station and training center in Glendale and a combined east-side police/fire public safety facility in Sugar House.
Members of the Salt Lake City Council say the city's public safety facilities still need to be addressed likely with a revised bond proposal. That proposal, they said, should come from the city's mayor-elect, Ralph Becker, when he takes office in January.
Mayor Anderson has expressed concerns about the fairness of Salt Lake City residents and business owners shouldering the financial burden of public safety alone when nonprofit organizations, churches, hospitals, governmental entities and the University of Utah reap the benefits without paying anything.
Anderson is proposing the creation of a citywide fire protection district in which all property owners would pay their fair share for fire protection. Because it would not be a tax, no one would be exempt, he said. Anderson also has suggested a commuter tax to help offset the costs for police protection.
Other options include funding the new public safety facilities with sales tax bonds, which do not require a public vote. Council members are wary of that idea, though, because it would take funds away from other projects.The city also could allocate more money from the general fund to public safety and then have the police and fire departments build the construction projects into their respective budgets. That, too, would take money from other city departments and likely would hinder efforts to increase law enforcement personnel.