Pandemic provides boost to Holladay City budgetAug 02, 2021 10:29AM ● By Zak Sonntag
Holladay patrol helps control traffic to accommodate a professional bicycle event through Holladay streets. (Zak Sonntag/City Journals)
By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]
The City of Holladay is sitting fiscally pretty and passed its FY 2021-2022 budget in the black. Holladay kept its house in order with the help of surprisingly strong sales tax revenue, upticks in building permit and roadcut fees, along with a healthy dose of federal stimulus dollars.
City officials feared the books would get brutalized by the pandemic recession. Yet more than merely keeping afloat, stable revenue allowed the municipality to expand services and move forward with big infrastructure projects.
One of the budget’s big winners is the Holladay precinct of Unified Police, which obtained a 6.8% increase to be used to fund the addition of another full-time officer.
“We’ve been trying to get this officer for a while, and it’s going to make a big difference and help us deliver the safety and services the community expects. So we’re grateful the mayor and the city worked with us to make it happen,” said Chief Justin Hoyal, who heads the Holladay precinct.
Hoyal spoke with the Journal and explained that the new officer is not an addition, per say, but rather a move to bring the precinct’s officer count up to standard. Holladay has five patrol shifts that guarantee 24-hour patrol coverage of the city. A typical shift deploys three officers, a best-practice standard that allows for flexibility and agility in call response. However, for years the city has managed one of its key day shifts with just two officers, a diminished presence that creates problems, according to Hoyal.
“Having only two officers on that shift is problematic for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that it takes away from our ability to enforce basic traffic violations. Traffic is one of the biggest complaints from citizens,” said Hoyal, going further to explain the logistics. “That’s partly because I’ve often had to pull one of our traffic officers away from their primary assignment in traffic enforcement in order to cover for patrol officers, who respond to 911 calls, like cars being broken into, shoplifting, or domestic violence.”
When making the request for additional funding to the council, Hoyal explained how the Holladay precinct and UPD as a whole have far fewer officers per capita than most American municipalities. Nationally, there are around two officers per 1,000 residents. UPD’s overall ratio is half that at a single officer per 1,000 residents.
However, needs vary immensely by geography, and comparisons to a national average in a country as diverse as the U.S. may not be all that telling.
“It’s not so much about comparing statistics, but instead it’s about understanding the needs of your community, and we think this officer will help us meet the needs of Holladay,” Hoyal told the Journal.
The City Council agreed and okayed the funding increase without objection.
“Our chief runs a tight ship when dealing with the numbers. I think if [Hoyal] asks for something, it’s because he needs it, not because he wants it,” said Mayor Rob Dahle, before voting in support of the increase. “Our population is growing, and as it grows the calls for service will grow. So I think we should do this just to react to that growth and what’s probably been a shortcoming in our community for a number of years.”
The council’s frictionless approval marks a contrast to many cities, including Salt Lake, where a request this summer to increase police funding stirred anxious debates. Amidst a host of nation-wide reforms and calls to reinterpret the role of police by handing some of their functions—and funding—to other classes of civil servants, the City of Holladay managed to expand its police presence without blowback, a sign of trust and good rapport leaders hope to maintain.
“The relationship with the community is very important, and the community up here is so supportive. The citizens are kind, and the city council and manager’s office are helpful and supportive. I love working in Holladay,” said Hoyal.
Of course, it makes it easier to increase police funding when you’ve got money to spend.
Part of Holladay’s economic health is the result of a shot in the arm from the federal government, which showered the city in cash. The money was used to make technological improvements at city hall to ensure the continuity of government along with the continuation of emergency services, like fire and police. It also freed up money for initiatives like the city’s Small Business Grant program designed to see mom-and-pop shops through the pandemic.
Skaters are another big winner, as revenue remains strong enough to move forward with the construction of a $300,000 world-class skate park, which will be located on the south end of the city park and is set to break ground this summer.
The budget was also helped along with a nice chunk of change from Google, who paid $200,000 in road-cut fees in order to start its Google Fiber broadband installations, which in due time will deliver greased-lightning internet speed to households across the city.
Additional money came from an uptick in building permit fees, mostly from the Holladay Hills development on the former mall site, whose construction is underway and slated for partial openings in early 2022. But the biggest surprise was the increase in sales tax revenue. Officials anticipated sales tax declines as pandemic fears and the global recession threatened to chase consumers into hiding. However, spending did not plummet, but instead ticked up as folks stocked up for the apocalypse.
The city’s fiscal situation looks even better in comparison to many U.S. cities who’ve suffered revenue shortfalls and had to make tough adjustments, like cutting services and laying off workers. There is still abundant uncertainty as to what the future of our local and larger economies hold. But for now, Holladay is looking good in black.