November’s ballot: tax increase in Park City will be alongside politicians
July 31, 2012
Park City voters on Election Day will decide whether City Hall is able to slightly increase what is charged in sales taxes inside the city limits, a ballot measure that has garnered little publicity in an election year dominated by partisan politics on the national, state and local levels.
The Park City Council cast a unanimous vote earlier in the summer putting the ballot measure to voters in November. The elected officials did not spend extensive time discussing the concept prior to their vote agreeing to place the question on the ballot.
City Councilman Alex Butwinski at the time mentioned whether the ballot measure could be put to voters again in the future if it does not pass in 2012. Butwinski also said he anticipated the increase would be approved by voters.
There was also a brief discussion about whether the elected officials are able to publicly support the ballot measure. They were told they should not participate in politicking related to the ballot measure in an official capacity.
Nobody from the public testified before the City Council cast the vote placing the measure on the ballot. There has been little public discussion about the ballot measure, and voters seem far more interested in the political campaigns that will be on the same ballot. The White House, a spot in the Senate and congressional seats are on the ballot as well as positions in the Utah Legislature and at the County Courthouse.
If the ballot measure is approved, a portion of the sales tax known as the resort communities sales and use tax will be increased from 1.1 percent to 1.6 percent. The increase would mean someone would pay another 50 cents in taxes on a $100 purchase.
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The base sales tax in Park City is 7.45 percent and it already includes the 1.1 percent in the resort communities sales and use tax. The base sales tax would increase to 7.95 percent if the measure is passed by voters.
City Hall estimates the increase could generate another $3.2 million in Park City’s 2014 fiscal year, running from mid-2013 until mid-2014. The start date for the tax could be as soon as April 2013, and there is not a sunset date.
The resort communities sales and use tax applies to all purchases inside the city except unprepared foods, which are generally sold at grocery stores. City Hall sees the tax as impacting visitors more than people who live in Park City.
Park City leaders envision putting the additional money into construction projects and conservation purchases. They are looking for a new revenue stream as traditional ones have leveled off from the boom era prior to the recession. The economic downturn hit Park City at a time when there was expected to be a drop in the lucrative development and construction industries anyway.
Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council discussed the prospects of additional revenues through the resort communities sales and use tax as part of a broad review of the municipal finances during budget talks in the spring and early summer.
If the measure is approved, the additional monies could pay for a range of projects and purchases. Officials have said funds could be pumped into Main Street improvements, as an example. Main Street is hoping for more City Hall funding in an effort to ensure the shopping, dining and entertainment district remains competitive. Main Street leaders endorsed the proposal prior to the City Council placing it on the ballot.
The money could also be used for street improvements in Old Town, upgrades to the storm drains and land purchases for conservation purposes.
City Hall staffers anticipate presenting the ballot measure’s language to the elected officials at a meeting on Aug. 23.