Utah Approves Police-Service Tax On Churches

Searching for a way to cover the rising cost of law enforcement in a growing area, officials in Salt Lake County, Utah, have approved a special assessment that will be applied to homes, businesses and houses of worship.

The county approved a proposal Jan. 11 that will charge a fee depending on how many law-enforcement calls the institutions have generated historically. Churches could pay about $1,000 annually, reported the Salt Lake Tribune.

Houses of worship are exempt from many forms of taxation, and some religious leaders in the area are not pleased with the new levy. The Rev. Handi Jo Dolloff-Holt, a pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kearns, described the fee as a “direct violation” of the church’s non-profit status.

The assessment will extend to 41 churches, including a few chapels belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah’s dominant faith.

“The precedent has already been set,” said Salt Lake County Councilman Jim Bradley, who explained that chapels have already been required to pay storm-water fees in some communities, as well as franchise fees for electricity, natural gas and telephone service. “This isn’t breaking new ground.

“Everyone who is in the community and uses the service,” he added, “probably ought to pay for it.”