Summit County voters approve sales tax initiatives
November 11, 2016
Summit County voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved raising the current sales tax rate to generate revenue for transportation-related improvements, with 13,370 and 15,046 votes cast in favor of Propositions 9 and 10, respectively.
Residents agreed to pay an additional .50 percent or two pennies for every $4 spent on normal purchases, excluding unprepared foods or gasoline. The results are preliminary until the official canvass in approximately two weeks.
The current sales tax rate is 7.95 percent within Park City and 6.35 percent in the county. The rate will increase to 8.45 and 6.85, respectively.
"It indicates a vote of confidence in us and that the council did their homework," said Caroline Ferris, Summit County's transportation planning director. "Our council chose the option that we thought was the least burdensome and our voters agreed. They said, 'You are on the right track and we understand we need to make some investments.'"
The Mass Transit Tax and the county-wide tax option will each add .25 percent to the county-wide sales and use tax. Officials estimate nearly 50 percent of the sales tax collected will come from visitors. Each new tax is expected to annually generate more than $4 million.
The taxes will go into effect on Jan. 1 and funds are anticipated to start trickling in around April, Ferris said.
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"In the scheme of transportation projects, April is really right around the corner," she said. "We plan to move forward on the projects we have outlined and will see how much we can get done to make as big of an impact as soon as possible."
The prioritized projects that will be supported through the two taxes include: improvements to the State Roads 224 and 248 corridors; intersection upgrades; access to park-and-ride lots; expanded bus services with more frequent stops, shorter wait times and service to the East Side of the County; and improvements to pedestrian and bike facilities.
Alfred Knotts, Park City transportation planning manager, said staff is "super encouraged by this,' adding it proves the community supports their plan.
"The majority saw the value and what we were asking them to vote," Knotts said. "It was a tough decision to put two measures on there, but we went out and said there two specific taxes that will help us put resources in transit and infrastructure to maintain our system."
Staff will begin focusing on how to increase the existing levels of service, create remote-parking lots and start advanced planning for the State Road 248 project, Knotts said. However, he stressed "the larger capital projects won't happen overnight."
"There are things we can do right now with these high priority projects, such as these increased level of services," Knotts said. "I'm starting to work with UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation) on advancing the S.R. 248 project, but it is still probably two years out. Now, though, we can start using some of that money to start queuing some of those up."
County Council members and the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau had voiced their support of the measures, with few opposition statements emerging from the community.
County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said the vote reflects the message council members have been receiving from residents, particularly in the Basin, that indicates people are deeply concerned about traffic and transportation issues.
"We were led to the conclusion we reached to put the propositions on the ballot and we provided an opportunity for the voters to adopt something so we can begin to make some meaningful changes," Armstrong said.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said the increases do not put the community at "any huge disadvantage" from a competitive standpoint when it comes to attracting visitors.
"We thought it was an equitable methodology to raise funds," Malone said. "We thought the sales tax was probably the easiest pill to swallow. We were very pleased to see the outcome and now is the time to get to work to try and make some changes."
For more information about the projects and timelines, go to http://www.letsgosummit.com/.
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