Park City sales-tax numbers show Sundance-less January was no blockbuster, but not a flop, either
Report shows a steep drop from the year before even as figure beat City Hall projection
The month of the Sundance Film Festival, as had been expected, was not a blockbuster for the Park City economy.
But January also was not a flop for business in the community.
City Hall has released sales-tax figures for one of the key economic months of the year showing a dramatic drop from January of 2020. But the drop, although sharp, was not as terrible as officials had projected in a forecast drafted in October.
According to City Hall, a little less than $1.6 million in sales taxes were collected in the municipal General Fund in January. The figure dropped from the nearly $2.2 million collected in January of 2020 as well as the little more than $1.9 million in January of 2019. A City Hall projection in October forecast the January figure at a little less than $1.2 million, meaning the actual number beat the projection by a wide margin. The year-over-year drop between 2020 and 2021, though, was nearly 27%.
There were worries that January could be a particularly difficult month during the ski season. Sundance, the largest event on the Park City calendar, moved to an online platform as concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus continued. January is also traditionally a post-holiday lull for the ski industry.
Sales taxes are seen as an important indicator for the economy since they are charged on such a broad range of goods and services. They are more volatile than other City Hall revenue streams like property taxes.
The Sundance crowds are some of the largest of the year and the festival is usually an especially lucrative stretch for industries like lodging, restaurant and transportation. A report commissioned by Sundance after the festival in 2020 showed the event contributed $167.5 million to the gross domestic product of Utah. Much of that total was generated in Park City.
Sundance organizers months before the event signaled the festival would be scaled back with limited activity in Park City. Then, in the weeks before the festival opening, Sundance eliminated the only live venue that had been planned in Park City for 2021. There was little evidence of Sundance in Park City during the festival’s online run.
The January sales-tax figures appear to show the ski industry performed better than had been forecast by City Hall, making up some of the losses from the cancellation of Sundance as an in-person event. Final numbers for the ski industry during the 2020-2021 winter will not be tallied until later, but they will likely show numbers beating expectations even if they drop from previous years. Skiing has appeared to be a draw amid the pandemic as people seek outside activities that allow for social distancing.
Park City’s sales-tax collections have beaten the projections since the summer, and certain months have seen increases on a year-over-year basis. City Hall officials will closely watch the February and March numbers, which will be released in coming months, since they will cover other crucial periods of the ski season. There have been anecdotal reports of solid business during those two months, but the sales-tax numbers will provide data that will show whether that stretch was as strong as believed.
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Park City Attorney Margaret Plane recently sent a memo to elected and appointed officials, as well as candidates in the City Hall election, cautioning them about making public statements regarding development proposals. The memo outlines that stands on planning and zoning matters could jeopardize a later process, such as when a decision by the Planning Commission is put to the City Council through an appeal.