City Hall splits up windfall
City Hall on Thursday ended its annual budget season, with the Park City Council adopting a balanced spending plan that does not require the local government to raise property taxes.
The City Council unanimously approved the budget six weeks after what started as a boisterous debate between varying factions of Park City, a rarity during the second year of City Hall’s two-year budget cycle, when the discussions are normally mundane.
On Thursday, there was little public input before the elected officials approved the budget but this week’s meeting was not indicative of the hearings that unfolded since early May.
The budget envisions spending and raising about $46.9 million in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. About $34.4 million will be spent on City Hall’s operating expenses and the remainder, a little less than $12.5 million will be put toward capital projects, including a police station and a study that will consider options to make Park City an easier place to navigate for walkers and bicyclists.
City Hall, flush with money from a busy year for the tourism industry, has about $1.7 million more for capital projects, a total of $6.5 million, than was anticipated when the budget was presented to the City Council in May, according to a report submitted to the elected officials this week.
The City Council agreed to put the money into projects like the town plaza and City Hall upgrades. Some of the projects that will receive money from the windfall include:
( The town plaza, planned for Swede Alley, which was earmarked $750,000, the amount needed to fully fund the project.
( City Hall upgrades, which gets $750,000 two years before the funding was scheduled. The report says that the money, needed to make the building safer if an earthquake hits, was originally set to be budgeted in the 2008 fiscal year but was instead moved up.
( The study regarding walkers, with an earmark of $150,000, was switched to the 2006 fiscal year from 2007.
( The planned police station received an extra $123,000. The report says if the money is not needed, it could be shifted to other projects.
Of the list, the study about walkers and bicyclists received the most publicity recently. Before a budget hearing in May, about 20 bicyclists staged a demonstration asking for money for the study. They gathered at the western edge of the Rail Trail, talked about the need for a safer trail system and rode to City Hall. Some of them then asked for money, which resulted in the $150,000 budget item.
Meanwhile, it includes 2 percent increases in the budgets for salaries for City Hall staffers.
In another significant budget decision, the City Council had earlier authorized City Hall to collect more money from business licenses to put toward the city’s fare-free bus system and the Sundance Film Festival and other special events.
The part of the license put toward the transit system will increase 25 percent over three years.
The special-event portion, introduced in the budget talks and largely a result of a long-term deal between City Hall and Sundance Film Festival organizers, will cost businesses a varying amount each year, depending on the industry.
Those that are seen as benefiting the most from special events, like lodges, restaurants and retailers, will pay the most. Other sectors that do not see big business during events like Sundance, such as mountain resorts and offices, will pay toward the lower end of the scale.
Lodges, for instance, will pay about $9.49 per bedroom for the special events. Restaurants and retailers will pay about 10 cents per square foot. Resorts, however, will be charged just over 1 cent per skier-day, a measurement used by resorts to identify a person skiing all or part of a day.
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Sales-tax collections in Park City in July beat City Hall projections by a wide margin, providing a key data point that illustrates a nascent economic comeback of sorts from the spring business shutdowns.