Summit County Council poised to make a decision on potential tax increases
Summit County Council members only have a few days left to decide whether to implement one of the sales-tax hikes they have been considering for the last month to help fund transportation projects.
The County Council is poised to make a decision on Wednesday during the Council meeting at the County Courthouse in Coalville, just three days before the June 30 deadline. The item is listed as a discussion with the possibility of approval. The matter is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.
Janna Young, deputy county manager, said the Council has not given her any indication on whether it plans to move forward with the tax increases.
“We haven’t actually done any type of straw poll or even asked the Council directly where they are on the issue,” she said. “The reason we are bringing it up on Wednesday is if they want to impose the taxes and take advantage of keeping 100 percent of the revenue, we have to make notifications to the state by June 30.”
By imposing one of the increases, a 0.25 percent transportation infrastructure tax, by the end of the month, the county would get to keep all of the estimated $3.6 million it would generate before June 30, 2019, before sharing future revenues with municipalities within the county. The Council has also discussed a separate 0.20 percent tax for transit expenses, but is not facing a deadline on that decision.
The five-member body has the authority to approve the taxes without any voter input and will likely make a decision on the transportation infrastructure tax Wednesday. County staffers have publicly stated they support implementation of both taxes and have encouraged the Council to levy them.
“Wednesday is the last Council meeting before the deadline,” Yong said. “They may choose not to do it and they may say they are not ready or they may choose to just enact one over the other. But, we have heard from the community that it is not the right time.”
The transportation infrastructure tax would amount to about a $45 annual increase for average residents, with that number varying for visitors. The increase would amount to a four-cent increase for every $100 spent. The taxes would not apply to unprepared food items or gas.
County staffers have spent the last month meeting with various community groups to explain the benefits of imposing the additional tax increases, including the Park City Area Lodging Association, the three school districts and East Side governments.
Most of the mayors on the eastern end of the county have said they are hesitant to support the proposed tax hike because of the burden it could place on their constituents.
The mayors acknowledged the potential revenue an increase could bring in for their cities. But, they strongly suggested the County Council wait to see whether other larger counties are participating, a factor that will effect how much money the county ultimately receives. Salt Lake County recently announced it would be moving forward with implementation of the tax.
Earlier this month, the county launched a website to inform residents about the potential increases. More than a dozen residents have sent emails to the county voicing their positions.
One email said the money could be used to fix traffic problems in Kimball Junction, calling the increase a “relatively painless” way to help fund transit and infrastructure.
Another referred to the 0.25 percent tax hike as outrageous. The respondent said they lived in Francis and that it’s not appropriate for those on the East Side to help fund solutions to fix congestion in Park City.
The taxes would be following other recent increases. The Council approved a 27 percent increase in 2017 for the general and municipal funds, which amounts to about a 5.5 to 7 percent hike on an average property tax bill. Voters also overwhelming agreed to pay an additional 0.50 percent on normal purchases in 2016 to fund transportation- related projects.
County Council Chair Kim Carson said a decision will likely be made on Wednesday. However, she wouldn’t say what direction she or the Council is leaning. She added, “Tomorrow is when the decision will be made for me.” She said she has reached out to larger counties, such as Utah and Washington, to see if they are moving forward with the increase along with Salt Lake County.
Council members were scheduled to meet with the Park City Council during a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the matter.
“We are still having conversations with various entities,” she said. “We are not looking for an endorsement. We are just looking for feedback and giving them a basic overview of the taxes, potential projects and revenue.”
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