911 Dispatch 05

Weber County 911 dispatcher Emily Atchley on the job on Nov. 13, 2019. Weber County officials on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, approved a property tax hike for the entity that operates the dispatch center, the Weber Area 911 and Emergency Services District.

OGDEN — Weber County officials have approved a tax hike for 2020 for the entity that manages emergency 911 calls, the second in two years.

The boost should be enough to alleviate funding shortfalls in recent years that have led to borrowing by the Weber Area 911 and Emergency Services District.

“We had to stop the borrowing from the county, basically,” said Gage Froerer, a Weber County commissioner and, in that capacity, a member of the 911 district’s Governing Authority Board. The tax hike, he added, will put the 911 district on “solid footing.”

The borrowing, prompted in part by depletion of the district’s reserves following acquisition of new software in 2016, had been costing it $80,000 to $100,000 year in interest costs, Froerer said. Weber County had loaned the district the needed funding.

The tax hike, approved Tuesday, should generate an extra $363,750 per year, on top of the $340,000 per year hike approved by the governing board last year, bringing property tax collections for 2020 to $4.53 million. That property tax total is up from $3.63 million in 2018, before either of the hikes and other revenue increases brought on by new development.

Also Tuesday, the governing board, made up of the three Weber County commissioners, approved the 911 district’s $7.48 million budget for 2020, said Tina Mathieu, executive director of the dispatch center.

Only a handful of people showed up to the public hearing Tuesday on the tax hike proposal, which preceded action on the increase, according to Froerer and Mathieu. Neither reported any sort of strong backlash to the increase.

As part of the 2016 software acquisition, the 911 center also bought an extended maintenance plan, which, while likely saving money over the long haul, further exacerbated reductions in its fund balances. Though approving the tax increase along with the other two commissioners, the turn of events made Froerer wonder whether officials should have approved a tax hike sooner.

“That really becomes a policy question. Should they have raised taxes back then rather than putting off that decision?” he said.

The owner of an average-valued home, $280,000, will see an estimated increase on their property tax bill for 2020 to $40.12, up $3.31. That’s on top of the estimated $3.08 increase for an average homeowner from the prior increase approved last year.

The dispatch center, handling police, fire and other emergency calls, also gets a large portion of its revenue from the 911 telephone tax. It handles public safety calls in Weber and Morgan counties, with Morgan County paying for services via a contract.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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