Orem Residents Say No To Tax Increase, Yes To Funding First Responders

OREM, UT — Orem residents voicing concern about a proposed city property tax increase told the City Council at the Truth in Taxation hearing Tuesday that they would not like to see a tax increase, but want police and firefighters to get more pay.

Comments from retired police officers, police and firefighter wives, council candidates and residents all agreed — whether they supported the tax increase or not — that it’s time to support the first responders and keep trained officers from leaving.

The proposed tax increase would be about 7.96%, and is the exact amount the city needs to hire four new police officers. The tax increase is dedicated solely for that purpose.

Gary Giles, Orem’s chief of police, said for an average home valued at $302,000 in Orem, a taxpayer would pay about $1 more a month than they pay now.

In a report released in July by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Provo-Orem area is No. 12 in the top 50 list of lowest number per capita for police and safety officers. The only other area in Utah on that list is the Ogden-Clearfield area at No. 28.

Resident were concerned that trained and seasoned officers were being lured away by other cities that offer more or bonuses than Orem, like Springville’s new Police Chief Craig Martinez, who was with Orem for many years prior to his promotion.

Gile said the past six officers hired were fresh out of the academy and have “zero experience.” He added that it takes at least six months to train them on the job and for rookies to determine if they will stay in that career.

“My son has been here 11 years and he has had another offer,” said Lisa Wilkey. “When are we going to stop this bullying?”

“We’ve been working on pay increases for the past while,” said Councilman Mark Seastrand. “Just because it’s not in the tax increase, it doesn’t mean we’re not addressing the other issues.”

Mayor Richard Brunst said police and firefighters are leaving in droves.

“We have a 25% turnover rate a year. We can’t sustain that,” Brunst said. “We are not handling this correctly. … This is an issue we need to address for the safety of our citizens.”

The city council will meet at 6 p.m. on Aug. 27 to finalize the 2019-2020 budget and vote on the tax increase.

From The Daily Herald