Park City property tax increase seen as tool to fix childcare, housing crisis
Some Park City officials are expressing interest in a property tax increase, which would be a historic first.
Last week during a budget discussion, Park City councilwoman Becca Gerber pushed the idea of increasing property tax rates in the 84060 zip code, in order to fund crucial needs in the community, such as childcare.
“We have not raised our property taxes, like, in recorded history,” Gerber said. “As the values of properties have gone up around us as there’s been new development, we collect a little bit more but we’ve really kind of kept our bubble pretty small. And we have tied ourselves so strongly to sales tax.”
Councilwoman Tana Toly, who owns a restaurant on Main Street, pushed back against the need for a different funding source.
“If our sales tax continues to go down, property values will go down; they’re very tied together," Toly said. "This town was built on tourism. Sales tax is what funds us, I don’t see us changing from that.
Councilman Max Doilney disagreed with Toly’s assertion.
“I mean when COVID hit, sales tax scared the living Jesus out of all of us," Doilney said. "What happened? Everybody bought property. So when one thing falls, they’re not exactly tied together, let’s be clear about that. This is one of the most stable real estate markets in the country and it has been for most of my life.”
He said he was also interested in exploring a property tax increase.
“Because I’d like to fund things like childcare and housing at a much greater level than we’re able to right now,” Doilney said.
Councilman Ryan Dickey said he didn’t want to think about proposing a property tax increase this year, saying it wouldn’t pair well with a bond proposal voters may see on the November ballot for recreational facilities.
Park City Mayor Nann Worel also voiced hesitation, noting the affordability crisis some locals face.
But Gerber said increasing property taxes would be one of the most equitable ways for the city to raise revenue.
“On something like a $3.7 million home for an increase of $50 or something or $60 a year, you could very easily create a $2 million pot that could fund something like childcare and save families thousands of dollars a month,” Gerber said.
At the city council’s first meeting in May, they will hear a funding proposal from local childcare advocates about how the city could help ease the burden many parents around town are facing.
Critics say childcare affordability and availability have long been issues in the Wasatch Back, but recently attention grew when local provider PC Tots announced a tuition increase amid a significant loss in federal funding.
Last month the Park City Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Alliance published a detailed proposal about how a little over $2 million from the municipal government could fund care to over 200 local children. The proposal is called “Park City Cares About Kids.”
Kristen Schultz, coordinator of the Early Childhood Alliance, said the pilot program would help families with childcare costs through subsidies.
“So I’m a parent, I apply — I put in my income, my documentation — I am eligible for a $500 tuition subsidy from the Park City Cares About Kids program," Schultz said, explaining how the program would work.
"I now need to go to an eligible provider, and for us, we’re suggesting that that is basically all regulated providers that are in Summit County. So now I’m like boom, I’ve got my $500 subsidy, I provide the proof of that subsidy to the provider, and the money would just automatically go each month to the providers.”
The size of each subsidy would be determined by a sliding scale based on where each family falls in Summit County’s area median income.
According to an Early Childhood Alliance survey, the majority of Park City parents with children aged five or younger are paying more than 10% of their income on childcare. Federal guidance is that families should pay no more than 7%.
During the public comment portion of last week’s council meeting, more than 10 parents spoke in support of the funding proposal, including Snyderville Basin mother Eliana Bourne.
“This is not a nice-to-have request,” Bourne told the council. “This is a basic need request for this community. Without daycare, we can’t go to work. Without going to work, we can’t afford to be here… And there’s consequences of that. Not only us leaving, but also the impact on diversity. The impact of mothers that need to quit their jobs to have to go back home.”
A full presentation on the Park City Cares About Kids plan will be presented to the city council on May 2. Details can be found here.