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 an official 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.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank called the outcome "unfortunate" but said he wasn't crossing his fingers in hopes of the Election Day results being reversed.
"It really doesn't change the direction we began proceeding down immediately after the election," Burbank said.
The police chief said he has been working with the Salt Lake City Council and Mayor-elect Ralph Becker on how to address the city's need for public safety facilities.
"At the end of the day, the need still exists," Burbank said.
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, 315 E. 200 South, which public safety officials have called "dilapidated" and even "unsafe."
But the hefty 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 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.
That campus remains the No. 1 need for the public safety in the city, Burbank said. Discussions with members of the City Council and Becker have included talks about whether to focus on building that structure before addressing needs for the other facilities.
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, needs to come from Anderson or Becker when he takes office in January.
"We need to have the administration come back and tell us what options we have," Councilman Carlton Christensen said. "We need to do something. It's a dilemma for us, and we need to resolve it."
Christensen said he'd prefer that Anderson move the issue forward before he leaves office, "because he's the most familiar with it."
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 and governmental entities reap the benefits without paying anything.
Anderson favors 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.
Christensen says he doesn't see that happening because it would have to be a statewide initiative.
"Unfortunately, one of (Anderson's) legacies may be the public safety administration building," Christensen said. "I've thought we should name it after him."
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.
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