Transportation funding talks rev up
If Summit County leaders plan on asking constituents to consider a ballot measure that would support funding for transportation-related projects, now is the time to start that discussion, according to Summit County Manager Tom Fisher.
"If we are truly going to attack this issue, people need to be aware that the idea that there is enough revenue to do that already isn’t the case," Fisher said. "We decreased our operations budget and we are putting more money into capital, but we don’t want to sacrifice the services we are already providing to achieve these other goals."
County leaders are under pressure to develop solutions and implement plans to mitigate traffic issues along the primary corridors leading into Park City. Several studies have been commissioned to provide some solutions and projects are on the table, but officials say they need the funding to make those come to fruition.
Over the next several weeks, the county staff is scheduled to meet with council members to discuss which revenue source would be best to pursue in the fall, specifically for transportation-related projects. The issue was first raised at the council meeting last week.
"Our highest priority and strategic goal is to manage and possibly improve our situation over time with traffic and transportation options," Fisher said. "Which means it is a time that we need to consider enhancing our revenue."
Councilors will be asked to consider from the following options: increase property taxes, implement a sales and use tax, form of private partnerships or take on long-term debts.
According to Matt Leavitt, Summit County finance officer, the property tax option is the most stable of all the revenue sources. State code allows up to .0004000 for a property tax levy for the county’s transit districts.
In 2015, the county’s taxable value was about $3.6 billion, which would translate to about $1.5 million in revenue from a property tax. On a home with a taxable value of $265,000, it could mean roughly $100 a year more in property taxes, Leavitt said.
Leavitt also presented councilors with what he deemed as "less stable" revenue sources, including the sales and use tax options. The transit districts currently have a county option imposed, which somewhat limits the other levy options the county is able to pursue, he said.
The other options could include imposing variations of a county-wide sales tax such as:
- Additional county option, rate of .25 of a percent- county wide
- Fixed guideway option, rate of .30 of a percent- limited to fixed guideways, such as a lightrail
- County option for transportation, rate of .25 of a percent- limited to transit facilities and corridor preservation
- Local option tax through HB 362, rate of .25 of a percent – would be distributed to the municipalities and transit districts
Seventeen counties had the local option measure on their ballots during the recent municipal elections. Of the 17, 11 favored it. At the time, in the upcoming general election.
"What I am throwing out here are just some dollar amounts and different scenarios," Leavitt said at the meeting. "We’re not asking for a decision or guidance today, we are just entering into a point of discussion."
Next week, council members are scheduled to discuss the legalities and restrictions associated with each funding source and the following week’s conversation will focus on the projects that each could support. Council members will be expected to make a decision toward the beginning of March, Fisher said.
"We have to get a decision before we can move forward with budgeting and initiatives," Fisher said. "We also have to have that direction to be able to give the community some expectations."
Fisher summed it up saying it is too early to determine which option will be the most successful.
"It has to do with how aggressive we want to be on projects and if we are aggressive, that drives the dollar amount," Fisher said. "Being the budget officer for the county I don’t want to put the rest of our operations and capital projects in jeopardy. I’m not ready to make that judgment yet and I would like to have more minds in this discussion before I get there.
"That’s the great thing about the process is, at the end of the day, most of these things have to go in front of the voters and they are the ultimate decision makers of where we are willing to go," he said.
Ted Walker recently took over as director of the Summit County Children’s Justice Center after the previous director, Christie Hind, stepped down last month.