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SLC Council Votes To Enact Half-Percent Sales Tax

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Shoppers in Salt Lake City will pay an extra half-penny per dollar in sales tax on non-food purchases beginning in October. Despite some concerns, the city council approved the tax hike Tuesday night.

The tax increase is expected to bring in about $25 million in its first, partial year, and an estimated $33 million annually after that. Mayor Jackie Biskupski said earlier this week it would help fund road maintenance, public safety, transit and affordable housing.

In December, the city council approved hiring 50 new police officers. So when the mayor unveiled her budget recommendation on Monday and it only included funding for 27 new officers, some council members were surprised.

“It was wrong and it was misleading ... to drop that number the day before we make the vote,” said Councilman Charlie Luke. He said all discussions and resident surveys about the tax hike had indicated the city would hire 50 officers.

Biskupski’s deputy mayor David Litvak told the council during its work session that the administration plans to hire the remaining officers further down the road.  

Council members agreed that the city needs the extra money and unanimously approved the tax increase.

Council chairwoman Erin Mendenhall said there’s consensus that the money should remain earmarked for transit, public safety, street maintenance and affordable housing. But now the council will have to decide how much to put into each pot.

“The discussion becomes much more tangible about exactly how this pie is divided,” she said.  “As we go forward, whatever pie slice gets bigger, something else gets smaller.”  

There are also plans to bring an $87 million bond before voters this fall to completely redo some city streets. The city council will spend the next six weeks working out a final budget to adopt in June.  

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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