Sales tax increase tabled
Summit County voters won’t be among those in the state in November deciding whether to increase their local sales tax to fund transportation services. County officials have agreed to table the county-wide option until after the general election to see what kind of support the measure receives in other counties.
The county-wide option would impose a 0.25 percent sales tax increase on all goods and services countywide, with .10 percent going to the municipalities and the unincorporated areas,
.10 percent to the Park City and Snyderville Basin transit districts and .05 percent to the county. The portion that would be distributed to the unincorporated areas and the six municipalities would be based on population and point of sale.
The decision came Wednesday night at the council meeting during a follow up discussion to a May conversation that took place between the county’s leaders about raising the local sales tax. The funds would be earmarked for transportation services.
County Council members considered placing the option on the November ballot, but on Wednesday unanimously agreed to wait.
"The rest of the municipalities in the county do support this, but they are in support of waiting until 2016. That is the overriding sentiment with them," said Kim Carson, County Council chair. "The only negative I see in waiting is they are doing a state-wide campaign in support of this and we are going to miss out on the ability to tag on that."
Weber, Davis, Utah and Tooele counties have joined Salt Lake, Uintah, Beaver, Box Elder, Grand, Juab, Morgan, Carbon and San Juan counties in deciding to place the option on the November ballot, according to Matt Leavitt, Summit County auditor. Dozens of cities along the Wasatch Front have also passed resolutions supporting the option.
If the measure is passed by all 29 counties, the Utah League of Cities and Towns (ULCT) has estimated that Summit County, including the municipalities and transit districts, would receive approximately $3.1 million.
Several of the county’s mayors have voiced their support of the measure, including Kamas Mayor Lew Marchant, Park City Mayor Jack Thomas and Coalville Mayor Trever Johnson, citing the need for additional transportation funding for their respective municipalities.
In June, Oakley City leaders decided they would not support the increase . Henefer and Francis City officials haven’t indicated whether they would support the measure.
The amounts the entities would receive will depend on the counties that choose to participate, Leavitt said.
"My understanding is there are about seven or eight counties that, if they chose to participate, it would be beneficial for Summit County to implement it," Leavitt testified during the meeting. "Otherwise we would be contributing to other counties."
It’s not a matter of whether to put the issue on the ballot, but when, Leavitt said.
"There is time to put it on, but I would tell you now is not that time," he said. "My recommendation would be to establish a transportation plan about how we want to spend the money before asking voters to support it."
Dave Thomas, chief deputy attorney, also recommended waiting. However, Thomas said some clarification would be needed before proceeding with a vote at a later date outside of a general election.
Thomas said it is unclear in the statute that governs transportation taxes how to hold a county-wide tax election in a municipal election year.
"There is a provision in the statute that governs transportation taxes that says you can have the election during a general election of the county, which includes unincorporated areas, or during a municipal general, which includes just the municipalities. I don’t know what the authority is to have the election in unincorporated areas during a municipal election year."
The implementation of a county-wide option became available when HB 362 was approved by Utah legislators this session. It is a two-part bill that also allows local governments to impose a county-wide option if approved by voters and provides changes to the state’s fuel tax.
The fuel tax will switch from a per gallon amount to an annually adjustable rate of 12 percent or the equivalent of a five-cent-per-gallon increase. It goes into effect Jan. 1. According to ULCT analysis, the estimated revenue from the fuel tax for Summit County, not including the municipalities, will be $236,021.
The red, white and blue transit buses that allow commuters, skiers and visitors to easily travel through Parleys Canyon will be reduced starting next Sunday, but a new agreement spearheaded by a county agency will ensure the critical connection remains intact.
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