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Beer tax is paying dividends

Many cities funnel the funds into efforts against drunk driving

Cities and counties across Utah received $5.4 million in 2008 to combat alcohol-related offenses.

They organized overtime shifts for police officers to intercept people who were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They taught DARE programs. They prosecuted and they got convictions.

And right now, those cities and counties — including 181 that received more than $1,000 — are in the process of proving to the state why they should receive those funds again.

Agencies that received a part of the $5.4 million have until Oct. 1 to submit a report to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice detailing their use of alcohol funds during the fiscal year.

Failure to do so could result in funds being distributed elsewhere, though that's rare, says Monica Taylor, an administrative assistant at CCJJ.

So far, 44 reports have been turned in, and Taylor said she likes what she sees. Utah cities and counties are very good about abiding by the law that set up the beer tax, she said.

The beer tax, $12.80 per 31-gallon barrel, was established in 1983 to distribute funds on a formula basis for alcohol-related law enforcement, prosecution, education, prevention and treatment programs.

Nine of the largest local governments in the state received more than $100,000, while most cities received less than $10,000.

Salt Lake County came out on top with more than $740,000, followed by Salt Lake City with $444,112, Utah County with $363,794, Davis County with $190,728 and Weber County with $166,282.

Ogden is the city with the largest allocation whose report has been submitted, Taylor said. Out of Ogden's $158,408 allocation, it spent $120,000 on DUI law enforcement, according to its report.

Ogden employs two police officers who are committed to DUI law, though the remaining 10 officers in the traffic division and 60-plus officers in patrol also enforce DUI laws and alcohol-related offenses.

The city also pays the wages of two DARE officers who work in the Ogden City School District and for materials used in the DARE program.

Ogden also spent $107,000 of its general tax revenue related to alcohol enforcement, the report states.

Midvale is the only city in Salt Lake County whose report has been submitted. It received a little more than $51,000 from the beer tax and spent $33,100 of its own money on alcohol enforcement.

Midvale police pursued 98 DUI cases and 212 other alcohol-related crimes in 2009. More than 100 of those offenses were related to the purchase and consumption of alcohol by minors.

Brigham City, which received $14,363, allows its police officers to sign up for weekend DUI enforcement shifts, which resulted in some of the 58 DUI arrests in the past year.

Brigham police Lt. Dennis Vincent said in his report that his department uses some of its money participate in the National Night Out Against Crime and to fund a citizen police academy.

"During each of these special events, the public is educated on the dangers of underage drinking and DUI," Vincent wrote.

Officials say the beer-tax money benefits their communities.

"Without the state funds, the depth of the programs resulting in the success indicated by the statistics would be diminished," Midvale Police Chief Tony Mason said in his report.

Though the CCJJ's 2009 DUI report to the Utah Legislature has yet to be compiled, 2008's report shows 15,297 arrests were made. Utah also remained the state with the lowest rate of DUI-related fatalities with 22 percent.


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