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Midvale, Unified police reach budget compromise

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MIDVALE — The city of Midvale and the Unified Police Department came to an agreement on officer raises this week, amid turmoil over budget woes that raised concerns a third city would leave the police agency.

The Unified board of trustees voted to approve a 4 percent base raise, with a 2 percent cost of living adjustment and 2.75 percent merit increase, said Unified Police Sgt. Melody Gray, noting that those aren't across-the-board raises.

As part of the agreement, Midvale officers will receive a 6.9 percent raise, said Midvale City Councilman Paul Glover, who represented the city on Unified's board of trustees.

Unified police officer Jeff Fenton concludes a phone interview on Monday, June 3, 2019. Midvale is considering withdrawing from the Unified Police Department based on salary negotiations and possible layoffs.

Unified Police officer Jeff Fenton concludes a phone interview on Monday, June 3, 2019. Midvale considering withdrawing from the police agency based on salary negotiations, and possible layoffs.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

"Our officers are doing a wonderful job. Even Midvale police, they deserve to be in the top, but we can only give them as much as our budgets will allow without having to (financially) kill the citizens in our city," Glover said.

In May, Midvale leaders were shocked to see the then-proposed Unified contract would cost them nearly $1.5 million or a whopping 20 percent more than what they had expected.

Earlier this month, Sheriff Rosie Rivera then proposed three possible budgets, including the 2 percent cost of living and a 2.75 percent merit increase for Unified's officers. What differed between budget scenarios was whether officers would also get a 2 percent, 4 percent or 6 percent market increase to make sworn police officers' salaries more competitive with other agencies.

Many of Unified's board members were eager to give officers as big of a pay bump as possible since the agency is struggling to keep officers during a time when other cities are also giving pay raises to prevent losing staff to higher-paying departments.

Unified police officer Jeff Fenton talks with Jennica Martinez, after witnessing her running down the street yelling at her husband, Caesar Martinez, on Monday, June 3, 2019. Midvale is considering withdrawing from the Unified Police Department based on s

Unified Police officer Jeff Fenton talks with Jennica Martinez after witnessing her running down the street yelling at her husband, Caesar, on Monday, June 3, 2019. Midvale considering withdrawing from the police agency based on salary negotiations and possible layoffs.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

But even the lowest proposal stretched Midvale's budget to its limits, Glover said earlier this month. That put Midvale smack in the middle of a "big discussion of what we want to do" and whether it will continue to contract with Unified, Glover had said.

And after Herriman and Riverton split off to form their own police departments, they left Unified with a dwindling budget — forcing it to spread its costs on remaining cities — and pressure to keep its current cities in the department.

"We finally, through negotiations, they did cuts, we did cuts on our budget, and we ended up with about a 6.9 percent increase," Glover said Friday. "Our budget last year was just about around $8.1 million, just a little under that. And this year we are now at 8.63 million, I believe."

"The sheriff did a really good job of making cuts where she needed to make cuts, and their command staff has guaranteed us they'll continue to look for ways to economize and make it more efficient. We love Unified police, they're doing a great job for us. We have no reason to leave unless we can't keep the costs in line, but they're working really hard to do that," Glover explained.