Summit County’s sales taxes not lauded by all
October 25, 2016
The two sales tax proposals being lauded in Summit County as the most fair and equitable way to generate revenue for transportation have received little pushback from the community.
Several residents have expressed concerns about the distribution of the funds and the projects the money will support at many of the recent public meetings, but most have still said they would vote in favor of the increases. However, the Utah Taxpayers Association and local resident Josh Mann recently voiced their concerns over the initiatives in interviews with The Park Record.
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. The taxes would not apply to unprepared foods or gasoline and officials estimate that nearly 50 percent of the sales tax collected would come from visitors. Each new tax, referred to on the ballots as Propositions 9 and 10, would annually generate more than $4 million.
Officials have said the revenues could be used to expand transit service, including to the eastern part of the county, and for intersection improvements and dedicated transit lanes on State Roads 224 and 248.
Mann, who has lived in Jeremy Ranch for nearly seven years, said it appears the community is pushing government leaders to "find a solution right now when really there isn't a great solution."
"I feel for our City and our County Council because they are being pressured to find solutions, but I don't think that is reason enough to do something for something's sake," Mann said. "If there was a magical solution, they would have already found it."
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Mann admitted he doesn't use the bus and probably won't even if the system is improved, adding "I don't see a lot of community members riding it either." Rather than expand the entire system, he suggested implementing express busses to shuttle people to the resorts on busy snow days.
"What I would really like is for us to hold off on this. Let's not do something for something's sake," Mann said. "Maybe we make some short-term plans and see if people will ride buses to the resorts on weekends. If they are, maybe we build from there. But a sales tax to try and just do something could have some negative impacts on all of us."
Mann said he was is also worried the money will be used to purchase the Cline Dahle parcel near Jeremy Ranch Elementary School for a park-and-ride lot. The county is currently considering purchasing the property.
"My kids will go to Jeremy Elementary School in the next few years and I already see the huge amount of traffic so I am very worried that this enables our leaders to build a park-and-ride there," Mann said. "My No. 1 concern is I am afraid if we pass this it will enable them to purchase the land and that's enough reason for me to say I'm not going to give you enough rope to hang us all with."
Billy Hesterman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said while organization has not taken an official stance on the propositions "we do have concerns when sales taxes are used to pay for transit and transportation."
"Roads should be paid for by the users," Hesterman said. "When you put it in the sales tax, you are taking it out of the user's responsibility. We would rather see the counties across the state send a message back to the Legislature to look at other options, such as increasing the gas tax or look at doing a mile-traveled program because then we are truly seeing the reflection of those who are paying for it.
"I think this sounds like nice packaging: you are not paying for this it's the guys who are coming in to town," he said. "But, I'm still paying for it if I'm a Summit County resident so I will be seeing it too."
The Park City Chamber/Bureau, however, strongly supports the initiatives. Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau and treasurer of the Keep Summit County Moving committee, said the organization has been heavily involved in the conversations about managing the area's traffic.
Malone said the organization's involvement in those discussions encouraged members to consider what the county could do to improve mobility on a permanent basis.
"We kind of looked at it from the local, visitor and workforce side of this and a sales tax increase was the most fair and equitable way to have dollars come from visitors and not put every dollar on us locals," Malone said. "But with this, we still have a dog in the fight."
Propositions 9 and 10 will appear on the ballots that many voters have already received. Return ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 7, the day before the General Election.
For more information about the transportation initiatives or projects, go to http://www.letsgosummit.com/.
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