Amy Roberts: The cost of competence |

Amy Roberts: The cost of competence

Park Record columnist Amy Roberts.

It’s true what they say — you never know how much you have to be thankful for until you’re required to pay taxes on it. And last week, homeowners in Summit County learned they have A LOT to be thankful for.

Most of us saw our property taxes jump anywhere from 30% to over 120%, which proved to be quite a shock given the reasonable stability many of us have grown accustomed to. Upon receiving my notice, I pulled up my tax history on the county’s website. My records only date back to 2006, but between then and 2021, my property taxes toggled between $1,560 and $1,975 per year. A roughly $400 variation over 20+ years. According to the notice I received in the mail last week, I can expect to pay over $2,800 in November – an $800 increase in just one year.

I’m generally not one to complain about taxes. For the most part, I tend to view them as the price civilized communities pay for the opportunity of remaining civilized. I don’t have children, but I recognize the benefits of living in an educated society and as such, consider public education an investment, not a burden. The same goes for healthcare. I reap the benefits of living among a healthy population, so I’ll happily pay a few extra cents each time I check out at the grocery store to ensure someone without insurance is able to receive a flu shot. Likewise, it seems like a fair trade off to contribute a little here and there and feel confident that in the event of an emergency, I can call for help without first having to retrieve my credit score. Our trails, free bus system, snow removal, open space — none of that is free either.

All in all, I consider a $2,800 tax bill an embarrassingly reasonable amount when compared to the value of my home. The timing and notice of the increase notice are perhaps a bit less reasonable.

The value of our homes has increased dramatically over the decades — and our taxes have remained relatively flat. It would have been nice to see a more gradual increase over the years, rather than a shocking jump all at once. Especially given the unfortunate timing, when we are faced with runaway inflation and a possible recession — which we may already be in, no one seems to really know.

The timing is also quite the rub given how much of our property taxes are earmarked for a school district that hardly gets a passing grade right now. That’s tough for me to say — I grew up in a family of educators and have always been an advocate for public schools. But the list of failures and botched communications about them has become too troubling to dismiss.

A highlight reel:

There was the lack of enforcement regarding the county’s mask mandate and subsequent claims of confusion (despite hundreds of emails showing otherwise). Talented educators continue to leave the district, because quitting a job they love is less troubling than the retaliation they believe they’d face if they stayed and attempted to improve the situation. Last winter, there were some flagrant displays of racism and antisemitism, it took the district more than a minute to condemn the hate speech. Park City High School, once a top school in the state, fell to #21 in the State of Utah rankings. The district recently faced three misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse after its staff allegedly did not report sexual abuse accusations to proper authorities. Superintendent Jill Gildea attempted to skirt responsibility by stating she wasn’t employed at the district when the accusations were made. Except she was. Most recently, the county issued a notice of violation and a stop work order to the Park City School District over multiple building code violations. No one secured the necessary permits and construction was halted — the delay is likely to increase costs.

It makes you wonder if the district’s mistakes have been factored into the increase in our property taxes. Someone has to pay for them.


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