Mayors pan new tax
The Summit County Commission has been unable to convince mayors in the area that adding $10 to the cost to register a vehicle is a good idea.
The extra revenue could be used to purchase future road corridors, but Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt claims projects on the West Side would receive most of the funding.
"This is funneling money strictly to the Snyderville Basin," Schmidt said Wednesday during a testy exchange in Coalville with County Commissioner Bob Richer, who is from the Basin.
The County Commission explained to the mayors of the county’s six municipalities that taxpayers recently spent $200,000 for a transportation study that suggested roughly $95 million worth of road upgrades near Kimball Junction in the next 25 years.
"The Kimball Junction area is the economic center for the entire county," Richer said.
Schmidt, however, rejects claims from county officials that projects in eastern Summit County will ever receive funding from the $10 hike.
"When we started talking about this thing, it was brought up that this was not necessarily going to just be for the Snyderville Basin," Schmidt said. "Now, here we’ve got a meeting and the first thing we start off talking about is the Snyderville Basin Transportation Plan."
Richer disputed the claim, though.
"There is nothing that absolutely says, number one, that we have to do it, number two, that it has to be dedicated strictly to [the Snyderville Basin]," Richer said.
He insists the county will back off the tax increase if mayors are against it, however, bills will be mailed this summer that include an extra $10.
"So everybody knows, the state’s already been told to print the new forms with that 10 bucks on it," Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier said, adding that refunds will be issued if the fee is not approved. "That decision will have to be made absolute before July 1."
According to Richer, "if it doesn’t work for everybody, then we won’t do it. I hate to cut our nose to spite our face."
"My biggest hurdle is selling this to my citizens who are on a fixed income," Schmidt said. "I’ve got elderly people here who are living on $600 a month 10 bucks is a big deal to them."
Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard hasn’t heard from supporters of the tax.
"This is a big deal to a lot of people and they’ve called me and said, do not vote for this tax increase," Ovard said. "It’s been pretty heavily laid on me by citizens all over this county."
He doesn’t trust the Utah Legislature to limit the fee to $10, Ovard said, adding, "what locks it in at $10?"
Meanwhile, the Park City Council is lukewarm about the proposed fee hike.
"If [the $10 fee] wasn’t something that the rural mayors wanted, we’re fine with it," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said.
With the fee, Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan estimates the county would generate roughly $400,000 during the first year, which the Utah Department of Transportation might match.
"$800,000 in the Snyderville Basin is going to buy a bucket of dirt," Schmidt objected.
County officials want to begin levying the tax July 1, however, the Utah Department of Transportation administers the funds and any corridor projects that receive grants must be recommended to the state by a council of governments, which Summit County does not have.
A Summit County Council of Governments would likely be comprised of the three county commissioners and the mayors of Park City, Henefer, Coalville, Oakley, Kamas and Francis.
"We do not have the final say," Ovard said. "The state still has the final say, irregardless of what the [Council of Governments] says."
Francis Mayor John Bergen says the Council of Governments could improve relations between the cities and Summit County regardless of whether the fee is approved.
"I think the [Council of Governments] has extreme benefits far beyond this corridor preservation," Bergen added. "There are a lot more issues than corridor preservation."
Kamas Mayor Lew Marchant agreed, adding, "[the council] actually gives us a little more formal say."
In the next few weeks, the group is expected to vote on whether to form the Council of Governments.
"We certainly can do a [council] and not do this $10 licensing fee," Richer said.
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