Park City told to address low incomes, perhaps by advocating for fair wages
City Hall should address income levels in Park City in some fashion as leaders continue to pursue a municipal work plan involving the ideal of social equity, a Park City not-for-profit organization working with the local government has recommended.
The Park City Community Foundation touched on the issue as part of a wider draft report regarding social equity, indicating a survey centered on social equity found low wages as the No. 2 issue in the context of social equity. It trailed just the affordability of housing. The two issues are closely related, though, since housing affordability is directly tied to income levels.
The report, called the Community Social Equity Strategic Plan and forwarded to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council in anticipation of a meeting held on Thursday, includes a set of recommendations that may be intriguing to rank-and-file workers, managers and business owners as the municipal government could eventually discuss possibilities to exert at least some pressure even though there is likely only limited steps City Hall could take on its own.
Some of the key recommendations include advocating on behalf of vulnerable populations for fair wages and addressing the gap in pay between men and women. The recommendations also include strengthening groups dedicated to employee rights, raising awareness regarding Park City’s cost of living and broadening education programs for adults and those interested in entrepreneurship.
“The two issues are interconnected, as they can both support a working family in gaining financial stability,” the report says about low wages and housing. “Low wages are also linked to decreased educational achievement, worse health outcomes, limited access to quality childcare, and fewer avenues to address mental wellness, among others.”
The report notes what it sees as the wide range of socioeconomic levels in Park City, highlighting that nearly one-quarter of the students in the Park City School District qualify for subsidized lunches even as the median price of a house in Park City between June of 2018 and July of 2019 reached toward $2.1 million.
“When socioeconomic levels are as disparate as they are in our community . . . the result is a reduced sense of connection and belonging,” the report says.
The report’s discussion, although important to the overall talks about social equity, does not appear to provide the mayor and the City Council solid steps that would address income levels in a meaningful way. Raising awareness about the cost of living and advocating for fair wages, as examples, would not necessarily lead to rising incomes for the rank-and-file workforce.
One crucial barrier to progress on wages inside Park City is the state-set minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum. The minimum wage in the state has long been seen as too low for someone attempting to live in Park City’s resort-driven housing market, with buying well out of reach and rentals being among the most expensive in the state. The report addresses the idea that wage-earners in Park City find the housing market difficult.
“The service industry is one of the largest economic drivers in our community, yet those employees receive some of the lowest compensation. Even though some hourly rates in that industry are now in the $12-14 range, they have not kept pace with significant rent and living cost increases,” the report says.
It provides statistics generated from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculator designed to tally living wage numbers showing that a living wage for a family of four in Summit County — two adults with one working and two children — is $26.89 per hour. The poverty wage was calculated to be $12.07 per hour, as compared to the minimum wage in the state of $7.25 per hour.
Park City officials rarely discuss the state minimum wage. The city’s Statehouse delegation — a Republican representative and a Republican senator — only occasionally addresses the issue as well.
The social equity discussions at City Hall are designed to ensure the wide spectrum of Parkites is engaged in the community. There was concern not everyone enjoyed Park City’s strong emergence from the recession, leaving pockets of the community behind economically as the housing and rental markets recovered after the downturn. The elected officials have made social equity a critical priority, alongside housing, energy and transportation.
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The Summit County unemployment rate dropped slightly in October, the state Department of Workforce Services reported.