Nobody likes new taxes.
That includes a rowdy crowd of about 50 who gathered at the Unified Police Department on Thursday evening to decry a new property tax levy that will replace a fee instituted by the Salt Lake County Council for police services.
The board of the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area, which includes unincorporated Salt Lake County, Riverton and Herriman, held the "Truth in Taxation" hearing and was criticized by some for not listening to constituents.
"Our voices don't count," said Kathi Smith. "This has been shoved down our throats."
Despite legal notices and an initial public hearing in December, Smith said she had just heard of the tax and was outraged.
"I can hardly wait to vote for someone else," she said. "You are not representing us."
County Councilman Jim Bradley, who sits as the chairman of the service area, spent much of the hearing attempting to keep order as frustrated taxpayers shouted at the board and each other.
The police fee was paid by residents and business owners in unincorporated Salt Lake County in 2010 when officials determined the budget for the newly formed Unified Police Department was $13 million short. Herriman and Riverton have only recently joined the service area.
Much of the shortfall came as sales tax receipts fell during the economic downtown, said service area administrator Kerri Nakamura.
But the 2011 Utah Legislature outlawed the fee after hearing from unhappy voters. Salt Lake County then turned to property tax to raise $28.2 million for the annual police fee.
Bradley said that the council didn't want to depend on sales tax to fund police because those revenues were unpredictable in a variable economy.
Residents who own homes valued at $267,000 will pay as much in property tax for police services as they did under the fee.
A homeowner with a property valued at $230,700 paid a police fee of $275.69 last year. Property taxes for the service in the upcoming year will be $253.64.
However, a resident with a house worth $500,000 paid a fee of $408.40 last year and will now be taxed $549.73.
That's the case with Millcreek resident Steve Pohlman. "I think it's very unfair," he said. "Will I have more police cars in my area now? Or will I be paying for police services somewhere else?"
Pohlman said residents in Millcreek were being taxed without representation.
"This is the best reason for incorporation that I've seen," he said.
Magna area businessman Jack Nielsen said his police service tax is just too much. Overall, he said, his property taxes have increased from $18,000 to $25,000.
"I employ people. When the economy is good, I add people," he said. "When the economy is bad, I cut back."
Large businesses pay a larger share than residents, according to Nakamura. For example, Kennecott Utah Copper paid a fee of $1.4 million. The corporation's tax, by contrast, will be three times as much.
The hearing was required by law, but comes months after the service area set its budget, which made the tax levy a certainty.
That, too, was met with disdain by the audience, including Pohlman.
"This is just to placate us," he said. "It's a done deal."