Park City and Summit County Councils voice support for tax proposals
July 29, 2016
Before Summit County and Park City Councilors initiated a discussion about ways to fund transportation-related projects, Park City Council member Tim Henney posed this question to the group: what is the idea that we are bringing to the community?
Henney boiled it down to whether citizens are ready to shift from a "car-centric society to a less car-centric society."
"For me, that is good and opens this to other things in the future," Henney. "But I wanted to make sure that it is the mandate we are needing, which is to shift the needle."
Wednesday, several Summit County and Park City staff members presented the councils with two tax proposals to raise revenue for transportation projects over the next six years. Council members were asked for a recommendation on how to proceed and whether an additional Mass Transit Tax and county-wide option would be the most appropriate way to do it.
"Back in April you talked about the problem and it was confirmed by a survey that there is a problem so we need to keep talking to the community to make sure we can fund it correctly," said Diane Foster, Park City manager. "Because these problems span the city and the county we believe, collectively, it is best to also have a solution that spans both."
The Mass Transit Tax and the county-wide tax option would each add .25 percent, or one cent for every $4 spent, to the countywide sales and use tax. Each new tax is estimated to annually generate more than $4 million.
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Most of the projects that were outlined under the staff's proposal include transit service enhancements or are located in the Snyderville Basin. Nearly $42 million in projects are being suggested.
Chris Robinson, Summit County Council member, voiced his support of the measures, especially using a sales tax as a funding source because the majority of it would be paid for by visitors.
"I think this is very good and it looks promising because it is not a big lift, it is not regressive and it is not on food and gas," Robinson said. "I think by seizing this today it will solve our own problems."
Alfred Knotts, Park City transportation planning manager and member of the subcommittee, said the measures are not intended to target or "pick on" a particular demographic. He added that it is "just the nature of our economy and how it functions."
"These two (sales) taxes put us at 11 percent overall so we are still in the middle of the road with all of the other resort communities, including places like Mammoth in California where they are at 14 percent," Knotts said. "If we institute this, the places that will still be ahead of us to some extent, but are not necessarily resort communities, are: Napa, Crested Butte, Sun Valley, Ogden and Salt Lake City."
Caroline Ferris, Summit County regional transportation director, told council members these measures would help fund solutions and service enhancements to prevent Summit County from "becoming Salt Lake or some other generic city."
At the end of the nearly two-hour discussion, nearly every council member nodded in affirmation or provided a 'thumbs up' to show staff their support for moving forward. Summit County Council members have until the middle of August to come up with draft language. A resolution to include the initiatives on the November ballot must be passed before Aug. 31.
One point Roger Armstrong, Summit County Council chair, emphasized before the meeting adjourned was that the decision to adopt the measures ultimately lies with the community.
"If after we're done with public hearings and the mayors and councils kick the tires on this thing and the community says, 'we don't want you to do that or that much,' they have a right to say that. They will tell us how important this is," Armstrong said. "We are just defining the opportunities that we have to upgrade our system."
To view the Summit County staff report and presentation, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/3607.
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