Summit County Council will weigh Basin Rec’s proposed 72% tax hike Dec. 4
If you go
What: Basin rec tax increase public hearing
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
Where: Sheldon Richins Building, 1885 W. Ute Blvd.
The Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District has a wide-ranging, ever-expanding portfolio of responsibilities that ranges from plowing sidewalks so students can get to school to managing nearly 2,300 acres of land to stocking the plastic bags people use to pick up pet waste.
The last time the district raised taxes was 15 years ago, and it’s asking to do so again this year, calling for a 72% hike that would amount to a roughly $14.50 increase per $100,000 of taxable value on a primary home.
The Summit County Council, acting in its capacity as Basin Rec’s governing body, is scheduled to make a decision about the increase Wednesday, Dec. 4, after a truth-in-taxation public hearing. The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at the Sheldon Richins Building, 1885 W. Ute Blvd. The Council will accept public comment, weigh the proposed tax increase and the district’s budget and likely vote.
Basin Rec has funded capital projects like land acquisition and the expansion of the Fieldhouse using taxpayer-supported bonds. Basin Rec Director Brian Hanton said the proposed increase in tax revenue would help maintain facilities like trails and playgrounds; pay for three new full-time employees; allow the district to invest in a capital fund to delay another potential bond; enable it to budget for smaller projects like installing trailheads; and allow it to maintain and expand its level of service of trail maintenance, programming and land stewardship.
“Since 2004, we’ve added 2,100 acres of open space, 90 more miles of trail, four dog parks, pickleball courts, two community parks,” Hanton said. “(These are) non-revenue-generating facilities. We need ways to fund that to the expectations of the community.”
The tax increase would add about $2.4 million in revenue annually, bringing the operations and maintenance budget up from around $5.5 million to around $8 million, district administrator Megan Suhadolc said.
The district also pays about $4.6 million annually to pay down debt from bonds, an amount that will not change. Suhadolc said the tax notice sent out to residents could be confusing, because it does not include the debt service payment that is paid by taxpayers.
The advertised 72% tax increase will feel more like a 33% bump, Suhadolc said, because it’s only the operations and maintenance budget that would be increased 72%.
The increase is substantial, but Suhadolc said it’s necessary to maintain the district’s functionality.
“I know we need to do this. I feel badly for the people on fixed income,” Suhadolc said. “We’re human, we feel bad about this, but at the same time it’s what we have to do.”
Hanton said the decision has been a while in the making and was born out of a realization that the district’s budget will be in the red in a couple of years unless it secures more revenue.
Already the district has to compromise how it maintains open space and make hard decisions about replacing facilities.
The district has $61,000 earmarked annually for maintaining open space, for example, and has found that need is in excess of $400,000, Hanton said.
“Our teams have done a great job of maintaining properties. Most have gone past the manufacturer’s recommended lifespan,” he said. “We’ve removed a couple of slides (at playgrounds) just because, over time, the structure was repaired and repaired and then we just had to take it away — it was cost prohibitive to repair it. We just put a wall there.”
He said some of the items that will come up soon if the tax increase is passed are replacing the playground at Willow Creek Park and the artificial field at Matt Knoop Park, considering other playground replacements and beefing up noxious weed control and forest health efforts.
He also said the district would like to reduce conflicts between trail users like cyclists, hikers and equestrians by adding trailheads and trails, possibly building more single-use trails or posting staff at trailheads during busy times to remind people how to share the land respectfully.
Hanton said land management is some of the costliest work the district does, which includes fire mitigation efforts like removing trees and vegetation in areas such as Toll Canyon and Summit Park. That work often has to be contracted out and performed in some areas that are so steep the district has considered using a helicopter to remove felled trees. But he stressed that work’s importance.
“We have a responsibility to manage those lands. If there were to be a forest fire, we know there could be some really impactful results,” he said. “We try to provide a way for people close by to get out. We know we can’t prevent it but (we can make it so) people can leave.”
Going forward, Hanton said, Basin Rec will evaluate its tax revenue situation much more often than once every 15 years. He said they thought they were doing a community a good service by not raising taxes, but that delaying an increase has led to this big jump.
“We’re nervous because, I mean, this is impactful on people in the community, we want to be sensitive to that. It’s going to have an effect on people’s budgets,” Hanton said. “We hope they recognize what we do.”
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