Main Street, tax critic draft competing statements about sales tax vote

Jay Hamburger The Park Record

A group that represents Main Street’s interests and a Park City resident have drafted competing statements about a City Hall ballot measure that would slightly increase the amount of sales tax paid inside Park City if it is approved by voters on Election Day.

The Historic Park City Alliance submitted the statement in favor of the ballot measure while a Parkite named Bill McCullough wrote the opposition statement. He is identified as a "Park City resident opposed to higher local sales tax" in the signature line at the end of the statement.

It had long been expected that the Historic Park City Alliance, which represents businesses on or close to Main Street, would write a statement in support of the ballot measure since some of the money that would be raised would earmarked for Main Street improvements.

But it was not clear until just days before the deadline to submit a statement whether one in opposition would be written. City Hall put out a call for an opposition statement as the mid-September deadline approached.

The money raised if the ballot measure passes would be put toward the Main Street improvements as well as conservation purchases. Infrastructure upgrades in Old Town — storm drains and street improvements — could also benefit.

The ballot measure deals with a portion of the sales tax known as the resort communities sales and use tax. That portion is currently 1.1 percent and would climb to 1.6 percent if the ballot measure passes. The base sales tax in Park City would rise from 7.45 percent to 7.95 percent.

The tax is charged on purchases other than those of unprepared foods, which are generally those sold in grocery stores. It is seen as a tax that impacts visitors more than people who live in Park City.

City Hall estimates the increase could bring in an additional $3.2 million in 12 months at the start. It does not have a sunset date.

In its statement in favor of the ballot measure, the Historic Park City Alliance argues what could be accomplished with the extra money "will have a direct impact on vital commerce and recreational areas and public services within the city."

"With a levy on the existing Resort Communities Sales and Use Tax the city can accomplish its citizens’ goals of developing a more sustainable, successful community," the Historic Park City Alliance statement says.

It points to Park City goals of a "thriving, diverse and sustainable economic base" and fostering "a strong sense of community vitality and vibrancy" as being among the desires of the community.

The statement, meanwhile, discusses the possibility of improvements along Main Street, saying there are wishes for the upgrades. The work could include upgrades to gathering spots and the pedestrian experience.

"The need for gathering spaces and improved walkability has been a city priority for nearly two decades, and it’s time to move forward with these projects," the statement says, adding that the money raised could "help to ensure the longevity of Park City’s small-town culture and enable the city to continue to provide a world-class destination resort and community experience."

In his statement in opposition, McCullough touches on issues like the economic conditions and says City Hall should reconsider how it spends the money it already has rather than increasing the sales tax.

"Park City residents shouldn’t suffer a sales tax increase, particularly while challenged by a troubled economy. Rather, City Council and staff should reprioritize its budget to fit necessary capital expenditures, within the existing tax revenues," the statement says. "This is the case for our citizens who must make necessary tradeoffs to make ends meet in their daily lives."

McCullough also contends the City Council "has not presented to voters a compelling case for this particular sales tax increase."

"There is no well-supported capital expenditure project listing outlined to the voters, along with a justifiable timetable for completion. Council has listed some capital projects, but not substantiated to its constituents why the need is now, and why sufficient budget tradeoffs to cover these projects are inadvisable," he writes.

McCullough mentions that the increase will hurt Parkites alongside the visitors and that shoppers "will have an additional economic reason to not ‘Buy Local’" since the sales tax rate in Park City will be higher than it is at Kimball Junction.

The two statements will be published on state and Summit County voter websites. They will also be included in a mailer that City Hall plans to send to postal addresses in Park City explaining the ballot measure.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.