Park City voters face a question: Treasure, schools, both or neither?
July 24, 2018
There could be a critical question in the minds of Park City voters in November.
Simplified, it would be something like: Treasure, schools, both or neither?
City Hall plans to put a ballot measure to voters in Park City in November to fund most of the cost of the acquisition of Treasure for conservation purposes with the possibility of an unrelated open space deal involving land known as Snow Ranch Pastures attached in some fashion. The ballot measure is expected to be set at $50.7 million or $53.7 million, depending on the decision on the other parcel.
The Park City School District sometime in the next few years, meanwhile, is also expected to ask voters to approve a ballot measure that will likely be pegged at a number well into the eight digits. It could rival the Treasure ballot measure in price, evidenced by the district's $56 million effort rejected by voters in 2015. The School District's eventual ballot measure will be anticipated to involve a series of upgrades to existing facilities and new ones like school buildings. The School District ballot measure could be put to voters as early as Election Day in 2019, a year after the planned Treasure vote.
City Hall's ballot measure for Treasure will be put to voters three years after the School District defeat and at least one year before the district asks for voter approval again with what will likely be a reworked package of capital projects from the list in 2015.
The School District encompasses Park City and the surrounding Snyderville Basin, meaning the voting base is different between the two. But the people in Park City would be impacted by a property-tax increase linked to a successful School District ballot measure regardless of whether it wins a majority inside the city limits.
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Park City voters, then, could consider the impact of a successful School District ballot measure as they weigh whether to vote for the Treasure deal. They could dwell on the idea of paying increased property taxes to City Hall as well as the School District for years if both of the ballot measures were to be successful.
The Treasure campaign has not officially begun since Park City leaders have yet to finalize the numbers and cast the necessary vote to put the question on the ballot, but there has been scattered chatter in recent weeks about the prospects of a looming School District ballot measure in the context of the upcoming Treasure vote.
The topic was broached at a recent informational gathering in Old Town centered on the Treasure deal. Several people mentioned Treasure and the School District in their comments. There seemed to be a question whether a successful Treasure ballot measure would threaten a later School District vote.
The organizer of the event, developer Rory Murphy, told the crowd he did not envision voters needing to decide whether to back one of the ballot measures or the other. Murphy has a unique perspective, having previously served as a Park City Planning Commissioner during some of the discussions about the Treasure development proposal as well having served as a member of a School District committee that helped craft the specifics of the capital projects that were to be funded if the 2015 ballot measure passed.
The informational gathering did not provide the setting for a detailed discussion about the Treasure ballot measure and the School District, but the interest in the topic so early illustrated that the idea of the impacts of both of the tax increases should they pass could garner wider debate later.
There could be a variety of camps once the critical months of the election season arrive. Some may argue that the Treasure acquisition is too important to the community to reject, a point that would be based on the prominent location overlooking Old Town of the hillside land that would be set aside from development. They may argue the people of Park City will be able to financially withstand a Treasure-related property-tax increase alongside a potential voter-approved increase to the School District portion of property taxes to ensure Treasure is protected. City Hall's earlier successful ballot measures for open space will be retired in coming years, they could outline to voters.
But another camp could promote a reasoning based on what it sees as the critical importance of the passage of a School District ballot measure. They could claim the Treasure deal would overly benefit the people who live close to the acreage while a School District ballot measure would have wider community benefits, particularly on future generations as students graduate from a modernized district.