Summit County to retain a larger portion of transient room tax funds
Summit County and the Park City Chamber/Bureau recently reached a new agreement detailing how revenues from transient room taxes will be distributed over the next 10 years, with the county retaining a larger portion of the funds.
The Summit County Council approved the new formula on Wednesday after several months of negotiations between eight people representing the county and the Chamber/Bureau. Deer Valley Resort President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Wheaton also participated in the discussions.
Under the new agreement, the county will eventually retain 30 percent of the funds while the Chamber/Bureau will receive 70 percent. The agreement will go into effect in July, with a gradual transition to the new split. In 2018, 17 percent of the revenues will go to the county and 83 percent will go to the Chamber/Bureau, moving to a 24/76 percent split in 2019, before hitting the 30/70 percent distribution in 2020.
The current agreement allocates 90 percent of TRT funds, which are collected from overnight stays at locations such as hotels and nightly rentals in the county, to the Chamber/Bureau. Park City’s TRT rate, which is applied to visitors on top of the county’s rate, and fund collection are separate from the county’s.
According to state code, TRT funds may be utilized for “establishing and promoting recreation, tourism, film production, and conventions.” It further provides for the “acquisition, leasing, construction, furnishing, maintenance and operations of convention meeting rooms, exhibit halls, visitor information centers, museums, (and) sports and recreation facilities.”
County Manager Tom Fisher said the County Council began reviewing the TRT distribution in 2016 and realized the Chamber’s portion of the TRT funds had grown significantly in the previous several years from about $5.6 million in 2012 to $8.6 million in 2016.
The Council wondered whether the county could renegotiate the distribution formula to retain a larger portion of the funds.
“The Council started to look at it from the standpoint of, ‘Is there a better way to spend some portion of that to bring lasting improvement?’” he said. “There is a whole host of things that are assets that the county could invest in that would assist in boosting tourism.”
Fisher said that, while members of the Chamber/Bureau understood that “hard assets” have a lasting effect on improving tourism, they wanted to ensure they still had an incentive to grow tourism and grow the source of funding that is used for marketing. He said it was critical the distribution remained a percentage rather than a dollar amount.
The most important question posed to the county throughout the process, Fisher said, is how the additional revenues should be spent. He admitted “we have been completely vague about that because we haven’t decided that yet.”
“We know according to the law what we can expend the money on, but there are a lot of different possibilities, such as land purchases, projects and pretty much anything recreational,” he said. “One of the other things that has come up in the last couple of years is the planning around arts, beauty and culture.”
Recently, the County Council has used monies from the TRT funds to pay for a portion of the planning for the expansion of the Summit County Fairgrounds.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said the adjustment is not a huge disruption to the organization’s operations, adding “I think we can manage.”
“I think everyone at the table really understood the reasoning for this, and I think the new formula is good,” he said. “The length of the contract was important to us so we are able to engage in long-term thinking and contracts with events such as the Sundance Film Festival and other things that we have been working on for a number of years. The glide path will give us time to get there strategically over the next couple of years.
“We were very pleased with how our conversations went and how the negotiations proceeded, taking into account what is important to the Chamber and the business community,” he added.
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Each of the Park City area’s state legislators have a lot more than just ski resorts and restaurants on their mind – try roads, natural gas and a state university as well.