RAP sales tax set to expire in December
The Alf Engen Ski Museum, Egyptian Theatre and the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, though they represent a diverse array of Park City culture, all received tens of thousands of dollars this year from a common funding source, which is set to expire at the end of 2020.
The recreation, arts and parks sales (RAP) tax adds one-tenth of 1% to the cost of many purchases made in Summit County and last year netted just over $2 million for county coffers. The money is then doled out to local recreation and cultural organizations. Every 10 years, voters must decide whether the tax should be imposed, and the issue will likely be on the ballot once again in November. The Summit County Council has not officially placed the question on the ballot but is expected to in coming weeks.
Half of the revenue is granted to nonprofit cultural organizations, while the other half is spent on recreation projects, with $1.5 million going to the Snyderville Basin Recreation District since 2010, for example. Since it was first approved in 2000, the tax has generated about $25.5 million, according to figures released by the Summit County finance office.
Park City has received around $2 million in that time, according to Jonathan Weidenhamer, City Hall’s economic development director. He said the money has paid for unglamorous projects that might not have been pursued otherwise and that about $900,000 of that was spent on the Park City Municipal Athletic and Recreation Center.
The RAP tax helped pay to renovate the racket club and outdoor tennis courts as well as maintain the tennis bubble and buy filtration equipment for the pool, he said. The Park City Ice Arena also received $75,000 in that time, he added.
Other notable expenditures include approximately $500,000 to construct trails connecting the Round Valley and Highland trail systems.
“These are huge things that really connect our community and they’re really, really meaningful,” Weidenhamer told the County Council late last month. “We couldn’t do them without this tax.”
The fact that it’s a sales tax, rather than a tax on property or income, means it collects revenue from visitors as well as locals, and officials have touted its ability to spread the wealth accrued by the tourism industry to places in the county where tourists don’t visit as frequently.
“There aren’t a lot of taxes that we can take advantage of the tourism economy and give back to the East Side of the county, and this is one of those,” said County Councilor Chris Robinson. “… I like the idea that it’s not all being spent in the Basin.”
The breakdown of possible expenditures hasn’t been finalized for the next 10 years, but county officials in the past have attempted to steer the proceeds of the tax to different regions of the county based on population, something county councilors said they would pursue this time, as well.
Patrick Cone, a former county commissioner, told the council that the money had helped pay for improvements to the historic Echo Canyon Church, including a new roof, fence and painting inside and out.
Other beneficiaries include the Oakley Red Barn, Beacon Hill Park in Coalville, the North Summit Recreation District and the Mountain Trails Foundation, which last year was able to purchase a trail maintenance vehicle with some of the funding.
Jocelyn Scudder, executive director of the Arts Council of Park City and Summit County, said the funding source is crucial for the local arts community.
“It’s the only substantial local funding resource for our local arts and culture nonprofits that can be used for unrestricted general operating support, supporting staff salaries, programming and general operations,” she told the council.
Scudder also touted the importance of the arts, both from a financial and quality-of-life point of view.
“(The arts are) kindling for our local economy,” she said.
County Council Chair Doug Clyde said the tax benefits area residents by leveraging the money spent by tourists.
“Most of the monies are not coming from our current tax base, they’re coming mainly from our out-of-town visitors, so that makes it a tax that has limited negative impacts on locals but lots of benefits,” Clyde said. “It gets a lot of stuff done and we do our best to make sure that it gets to all segments of our population.”
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.