OREM — The city of Orem is moving ahead with a proposal for a property tax hike to pay for more police officers. They say a survey showed support for it.
Orem police officer Thomas Cook says they have more demands and more calls per officer now.
“Every shift, we, in some form or capacity, feel spread thin,” he said.
“A lot of officers are actually leaving in order to go to other departments that will pay even the same amount, but they have less of a caseload,” said Orem Police Chief Gary Giles.
It’s often mental health calls they are responding to.
“You see that in schools, in your families — mental health has become a larger problem and concern in society,” said Deputy City Manager Steven Downs.
Downs says the city council did not feel like they could fund new officers without a tax hike and wanted to see what residents thought first by asking them in a scientific survey over the course of several weeks.
“There’s a reason it hasn’t been raised for 41 years, and that’s because it’s a very very difficult topic,” said Downs.
“We gave three scenarios: hiring 2 additional officers, 3 additional officers, or 4 additional officers. Basically what it ends up being is a quarter per cop, per month,” he said.
The survey results showed:
More than half of the residents support the potential tax increase regardless of the dollar amount proposed. The proposal to add two new officers for approximately $6 per year is slightly more popular than the larger proposals, but overall support levels are high even at the highest household impact amount (approximately $13 for four new officers).
It looks like Orem will prepare a budget that would fund 4 new officers. They’ll bring that budget back in mid-May. Then state law requires a truth-in-taxation hearing, most likely in August, before the final passage of a tax increase.