This year, for the first time, organizers of parades in Salt Lake City are being charged for traffic and crowd control around the parade routes — with one exception.
The Days of ‘47 parade, the state’s largest parade, has been quoted a cost estimate of "$0.00" by the city, according to estimates obtained by The Tribune. But the Utah Pride Center could pay as much as $10,000 for police that protected Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade, and the Hibernian Society of Utah was charged $2,702.53 for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Salt Lake City Police spokeswoman Lara Jones said the Pride and St. Patrick’s Day parades were billed because they occurred on weekends and required overtime pay for officers who worked during their days off.
The Days of ‘47 parade, held on July 24 to celebrate the arrival of Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, falls on a Thursday this year. The officers who work parades — specialty units and administrative squads — typically work a four-day week from Monday through Thursday, so a Thursday parade can be covered by on-duty staff and doesn’t amount to an extra budget drain, Jones said.
However, July 24 is a state holiday. Jones said that doesn’t affect staffing because it is a "blackout date," a designation given to particularly busy days of the year to prevent officers from taking their shifts off.
The parade is the reason officers are required to work July 24, Jones acknowledged. If they aren’t on duty July 24, the extra staffing for the parade costs about $25,000, Jones reported.
"The Days of 47 [parade] benefits ... this year" she said. Next year, when Pioneer Day falls on a Friday, the Days of ‘47 parade committee will be billed for officers not normally scheduled to work that day.
Parade organizers also are billed an equipment and fuel fee of $6 for every 4 man-hours of police work, but Days of ‘47 is exempt from that fee as well because the equipment for the parade — patrol cars and motorcycles — would be used on a fully-staffed workday anyway, Jones said.
In a memo reminding officers of blackout dates, Chief Chris Burbank acknowledged that large events like Days of ‘47 "place a huge demand on the department’s resources." About 50 officers are assigned to the Days of ‘47 parade, compared to 25 for Pride, 20 for St. Patrick’s Day and 13 for the Days of ‘47 Children’s Parade.
But parades aren’t charged for the actual value of the police resources. Instead organizers are billed for the budget shortfall they create when parades requireoff-duty workers. This year the city removed police funds for up to $500,000 overtime for special events and instead set up a process to recover costs from the organizers. Police provide estimates to city event permitters, who collect payment.
The new system caught the Hibernian Society by surprise this year. City officials said they warned all parade organizers in fall 2013 of the new fees, but organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade said they didn’t receive the notice and scrambled to collect money in the days leading up to the parade.
Days of ‘47 parade organizers budgeted for city fees this year but then were "pleasantly surprised" when the city did not bill them, said parade spokesman Greg James. The parade raises funds through sponsorships.
Joe Brown, co-chair of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, said it wouldn’t be practical to move his parade to a weekday to avoid fees. He said the police department worked with St. Patrick’s parade organizers to keep costs low.
City spokesman Art Raymond said the city and police try to keep costs as low as possible by consolidating duties and moving shifts to reduce personnel at parades.
"Where it’s practical, [police] try to arrange their staffing in a way that accommodates these events we know happen every year," he said.
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