Charles Trentelman made an excellent point in his Sunday, Feb. 24 column, "Pondering pepperoni pizza and the price of providing police protection," about how little each of us pays to fund our local police department.
In one detail, however, Mr. Trentelman was incorrect. He claimed that his monthly city utility bills pay only for water, sewer, and garbage service, not the police.
Actually, Ogden city transfers 17 cents out of every utility bill dollar into its general fund. While a small portion of this 17 percent is to pay for administrative overhead, most of it is effectively a tax.
Ogden transfers another five cents from every utility dollar to the general fund to pay for services that the city's engineering and street departments provide to the utility departments. While these services are genuine, the city keeps no records to document their actual value.
If we exclude the legitimate overhead and service charges, Ogden's tax rate on the utilities is approximately 15 percent. On a typical single-family household's monthly bill of $75, that's about $11 in tax. Annually it adds up to $135.
Very little of this tax is under a resident's control. If you opt for the smaller garbage barrel and use no water at all, your monthly bill is still $66.57. Residents who irrigate with city water in the summer pay significantly more. Apartment dwellers pay much less, because their landlords are billed at commercial rates and the city has chosen to subsidize those rates with higher rates for single-family homes.
Mr. Trentelman, in any case, is paying considerably more for police protection than he thinks. Besides the $73 share of his property tax, he's paying roughly another $45 out of his utility bills for police service. The police also get a share of the franchise tax he pays on his other utilities, and of the sales tax he pays on his purchases.
The total for his household certainly adds up to more than two pizza dinners. Of course, it's still a good deal, and that was his main point.