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The City Journals

Midvale contemplates funding their own police force

May 20, 2019 11:23AM ● By Erin Dixon

By Erin Dixon | [email protected]

The city budget was sitting pretty. It was nearly perfectly balanced before the final numbers would be adopted in June. Then the Unified Police Department (UPD) asked Midvale City for an increase in contribution that equaled nearly 20 percent to fund their portion of the police force. 

Some of Midvale City Councilmember Bryant Brown’s first words were, “This is insane. I don’t know how else to word this.”

City Manager Kane Loader assured the council if they wanted to continue to support UPD that they would need to raise Midvale property taxes by 50 percent. “And that would [only] cover this year,” Loader said. 

However, Unified Police is not the only first responders force that is struggling. Unified Fire Authority (UFA) and other police in the valley are facing the same issues that spurred UPD to make such a monumental request.

“Earlier in the morning ... I went to UFA and they’re facing the same issues. It’s an issue because ... skilled people are trading occupations, and their skills move along with them and agencies are trying to protect the ability of their agencies to perform their duties,” Midvale Mayor Robert Hale said. 

Assistant City Manager Bryce Haderlie was the one presenting the new numbers to the council. He was unsure where all the extra money would be going. 

“They’re representing that they have made reductions [since Riverton and Herriman left].

You can say, I don’t see how the pie is getting smaller, I can only share with you the numbers I have here,” Haderlie said. 

Hale spoke up for UPD’s accounting and said that he had faith in their numbers.

“I might give a pitch for the UPD accountant Lisa and her assistant have literally gone through... and reduced and categorized everything so that every nickel has a proper accounting and that where they’ve found errors from previous administrations.”

Councilmember Dustin Gettel appreciated the pitch, but said that the numbers are the deciding factor.

“At some point it doesn’t matter whose fault it was or when it happened, this is the reality. I’ve always been a supporter of us being in UPD, I think pooled services are better than just a city working for themselves but at some point you can’t defend it anymore,” Gettel said. 

Midvale joined Unified Police in 2010. The change was made to save money and take advantage of pooled services. 

Loader was a proponent of pooling with Unified Police at the time. 

“When we joined UPD, we saved about $800,000 a year. Our budget was about $6.1 million. We went down to about a little over $5 million,” he said.

“I don’t know what happened. I know that when the townships came into being and they reshifted everything around…. Now what’s happened with Riverton ... Herriman pulling out, I think it’s a perfect storm and it’s all hit in one year,” Loader said. 

Loader is confident that Midvale could support their own police services.

“I can tell you right now I can do it for less than that and I can provide all the services.”

Councilmember Quinn Sperry was hesitant but hopeful. “Kane, you can say you can do it for less than that, I’d like to see that analysis and see what are we giving up, what are we losing from the pooled services.”

In regards to raising property taxes to support the increase, so far it looks unlikely that council will. 

“I would prefer not to [have truth in taxation], but I mean if we’re looking at the option of potentially pulling out and that would save money. Maybe we have to cut out some things that we put in the budget,” Sperry said. 

The city cannot immediately cut and run. UPD will continue to be the first responders for Midvale residents for the time being. 

“One of the requirements of the interlocal is that we give them a year’s notice.... The other thing is we can put them on notice of our intent to pull out and then offer that, ‘If you guys can get this thing figured out in the next six months, we don’t want to leave UPD but we can’t sustain this.’ If not, our intent is that we’re going to leave July 1, 2020,” Loader said. 

On May 21, city council decided to wait on withdrawing from UPD.

In the two weeks since the last council meeting, UPD proposed a lower increase, 9.7 percent rather than nearly 20. Loader cited the reasons for the increase.

“One of the issues they’re looking at in that meeting is employee compensation. What they’ve proposed here is a 2 percent cost of living (increase), a 2.75 percent merit increase and a 2 percent salary adjustment for all of the uniformed officers. [However,] some of the board think that might not be enough,” Loader said.

There was some discussion about raising Midvale taxes. Most of the council was not in favor of this action. 

Councilmember Paul Hunt said, “Personally, I have no appetite to raise taxes. The citizens of Midvale are already going to receive a tax increase from Canyons School District.”

How does the city propose to cover the increase payment to UPD without increasing taxes?

Loader said there are other funds that could be pulled which were originally meant for other things. “We have $108,0000 that...was going to fund balance. There’s a $200,000 placeholder for a…future swimming pool. From transportation tax in our streets department...an additional 300 there. [Chief Thomas was] looking at prolonging the life of their vehicles by one year, which our portion of that would be about $200,000.”

On June 4, there is another UPD meeting that will include more budget discussion. For residents, on June 4 there will be public hearings at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. regarding the new fiscal year budget starting July 1. More discussion on this topic will likely happen in this meeting.