The taxing district set up to fund the Unified Police Department (UPD) as a regional law enforcement agency will see the exit of all three city members by January — leaving unincorporated Salt Lake County and its townships.
Riverton, Herriman and Millcreek all have decided to bolt the Salt Lake Valley Law Enforcement Service Area (SLVLESA), saying the alternative method of contracting with UPD will give them more control over finances and police and emergency service levels.
Herriman City officials voted to withdraw from SLVLESA Aug. 8 after what public records indicate was a “well advertised but poorly attended” public hearing on the issue.
Herriman has scheduled another public hearing Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 5355 West Herriman Main Street, on the creation of a new service area. The local district will be overseen by the mayor, city council and city manager and anticipates next year levying a property tax working out to $317.63 on a $300,000 home to replace the current SLVLESA tax.
Herriman officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Riverton was the first of the three cities to pull out of the service area.
One of the catalysts for that decision was a 9.5 percent SLVLESA property tax increase that applied only to member cities and communities. By contracting with UPD, Riverton believes it can save money and achieve the same or higher level of service.
Riverton Councilman Trent Staggs puts the estimated savings next year at around $500,000.
“People just need to remember we are not leaving Unified Police,” Staggs said. “Riverton, Herriman and Millcreek are not advocating at all for self-providing law enforcement.”
Previously, the cities would have had to put the issue of withdrawing before voters. But earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed HB229, which allows such a move without a vote so long as the city completes a feasibility study and gets approval from SLVLESA.
Staggs, who helped draft HB229, said the exodus likely won’t affect members left in SLVLESA.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much of a change,” he said. “They anticipated the withdrawal of Riverton and then Herriman and Millcreek.”
Once Riverton and Herriman decided to leave SLVLESA, Millcreek joined the line for the exit.
“When I looked at them leaving, I started looking at why should we stay if they’re leaving?” said Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, who noted the city will not create its own service district like the others departing. “And when I looked at it — especially with them gone and the governance changing — I just said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this, too.’”
Although Millcreek is likely to keep its property taxes at the same level they would be under SLVLESA, Silvestrini said residents would see other advantages.
“Given the amount that we’re contributing to the district, we’re probably not getting the same value and service as what we’re paying for,” Silvestrini said. “By that I mean that, you know, somebody is getting subsidized. I think we’ll be able to actually put more officers on the streets in Millcreek by doing this.”