Tax cut broached
May 16, 2007
With City Hall rolling in money as Park City’s economy booms, a member of the City Council, wondering if the local government needs all the cash, says some sort of tax cut might be reasonable.
Joe Kernan, a first-term City Councilor who plans to seek re-election later in 2007, broached the idea at a recent meeting but the other elected officials did not appear as eager to give up the money. The discussion was not expected and many details were not covered as Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council talked about Kernan’s idea.
"I think it’s incumbent on all elected officials to keep one eye on controlling taxes," Kernan says in an interview.
He explains City Hall should consider delaying a small sales tax increase but he says his idea is not to reduce the amount of property taxes people pay in Park City. He acknowledges that more research is needed into his ideas.
Kernan also says he wants City Hall to have a policy that requires 20 percent of surplus to be put toward reducing taxes but he does not provide details and he says he is unsure what would be lost by doing so.
"Why not give the community a little tourism dividend back," Kernan says, adding that he occasionally hears complaints about taxes but many times they target Summit County’s reassessments.
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Kernan’s comments peppered an otherwise staid discussion about City Hall’s budget. The financial discussions are ongoing and there has been little interest from regular Parkites.
Officials will not learn if there is a tax surplus until the numbers are totaled when the fiscal year ends but City Hall officials seem to expect one. But other City Councilors were tepid and it appeared that Kernan approached the others privately before the meeting.
Jim Hier said decisions about a surplus do not need to be made quickly, such as if there was a shortfall and steps needed to be taken to keep the government in the black. He also noted surpluses are tough to predict.
Others are concerned with the idea, with City Councilwoman Candy Erickson saying if a ski season were weak because of poor snowfall, tax revenues would fall and Williams concerned that City Hall grants could be jeopardized if there is not enough public funding.
Erickson also mentioned taxes could be reduced if surplus money is spent to repay bonds more quickly than anticipated.
City Hall’s property-tax rates are rarely questioned and Parkites seem generally happy with the way the local government spends its money. There have not been widespread public complaints that Park City’s tax rates are too high. Kernan’s comments were not expected.
It has been at least 12 years since City Hall raised its property taxes without voter authorization. Parkites have agreed in bond elections to raise taxes to purchase open space and build an ice arena.
Meanwhile the city, as it has enjoyed the strong economy, continues to consider improvements to roads, the China Bridge garage and Old Town. Officials also want to make Park City safer for people who are not driving cars. If taxes are cut, there are concerns that funding might not be available.
In a budget overview submitted to Williams and the City Councilors, more than $44.5 million in capital projects are outlines, with about $8.6 million to improve Kearns Boulevard the biggest.
City Hall’s budget talks are scheduled to continue on Thursday, when the officials are expected to discuss funding requests from City Hall departments and contracts awarded to organizations that the government deems to provide services in the best interest of the community.
The budget discussion is tentatively scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. in the City Council’s chambers at City Hall. A hearing is planned for a meeting starting at 6 p.m.