Park City leaders broach concept of tax increase for arts and culture district
Park City considers arts district funding options
Park City this week broached the concept of asking voters to approve a ballot measure to raise funds to develop an arts and culture district through a property-tax increase.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council held two discussions about the future of a district that is envisioned on City Hall land along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard. The Sundance Institute and the Kimball Art Center are seen as the anchors, and the project also would involve a significant amount of workforce or otherwise restricted housing and transportation infrastructure.
There has appeared to be widespread community support for the development of a district, with backers saying arts and culture are ingrained in the community and that a district could help diversify the local economy from one that is heavily reliant on the ski industry and related sectors. There has also been broad support over the years for City Hall’s housing program, which is designed to offer options to people who are otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market.
But the talks are unfolding amid the economic uncertainty caused by the continued spread of the novel coronavirus and the expectation of reduced City Hall revenues as a result of the pandemic.
The concept of putting a ballot measure to voters to cover some of the costs of the project was mentioned during the talks this week. It was not heavily debated nor was a straw poll taken of the City Council, though, and it is unclear whether the elected officials will move forward with further discussions or study of the concept. A ballot measure would essentially ask voters to approve the issuance of general obligation bonds that would be repaid via an increase in property taxes. City Hall staffers have not proposed a ballot measure as an option.
The City Hall portion of the project is estimated at $88.4 million. The municipal government would recoup some of the monies through the sale of land to the Kimball Art Center and Sundance. Those deals are estimated to eventually bring in a little more than $6.8 million combined. City Hall would also generate revenues through leases of the housing units, with those funds being put toward future housing projects. Other sources could include funds that have or will be collected through a tax on lodging as well as through repurposing extra capital funds already in the municipal budget.
It is unclear what sort of dollar figure could be attached to a ballot measure should one be pursued.
Additional discussions are slated for early January and then later that month. The City Council in January will likely consider a resolution regarding funding sources for the district. The timeline after the January meetings is unclear.
A ballot measure involving an increase in property taxes would follow in the years after Park City voters overwhelmingly approved tens of millions of dollars in tax hikes to acquire the Treasure and Bonanza Flat acreage in conservation deals. Voters have backed a series of other ballot measures as well.
The upcoming discussions, though, could offer a rare test of the community’s longtime support of City Hall spending. The talks will be held with an elevated unemployment rate in Summit County and with economic numbers during the ski season expected to drop.
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The Park City Police Department last week and early this week received several reports of parties, a common complaint to the agency during busy times of the ski season. The cases did not appear to be serious, but they seem to show an uptick in activity in the community.