A proposed property tax increase from the Snyderville Recreation District brought out a roomful of people before the Summit County Council Wednesday night.
The Council did not make a decision, and said they will take more input next week, after they heard opposition from the audience of 60 to 70 people.
Representatives of the Recreation District have pointed out they haven’t had a property tax hike for 15 years and they contend the increase is needed to maintain, repair and replace the amenities they’ve developed, such as trails, playgrounds, turf and track.
The increase would be 72 percent, but they said when they factor in the tax rate for debt service, the net increase would be 29 percent.
Twenty-one speakers stepped up to speak, with the vast majority opposed to the tax hike.
A common complaint was that non-county residents are flocking to the trail system in the Basin. Carolyn Rose, from Hidden Cove, was one of those who said she’s tired of paying so others can use the trails.
“I think until we have come up with something else to determine how to pay for this, that maybe we just cut back on some of the capital facilities, or we close some things down during some of the seasons. I don’t know what else to say. I just know that, sometimes I feel like I’m getting taxed to death. And the talk is “Oh, well, Park City’s getting more and more expensive to live in, and it’s pushing a lot of us out, or it will push a lot of us out in the future, and I really would hate to see that.”
Lon Thomas, a 40-year resident of the Basin, said the District should make do with the budget it has. He said as a private businessman, he has to cut back when it is necessary.
“When I run into some unexpected problem, I have to cut back somewhere else. I can’t just arbitrarily double my income. It doesn’t act like that. Manna from Heaven, give me more money. That’s not what real business does. I know you’re not in business, but you should operate it within the same constraints, of putting out a product for how much money you bring in. Asking for that much of an increase when you already have five and a half million coming in every year-- I think that you could sustain a very high quality of maintenance on all of the stuff you’re in charge of with the money that you have already without increasing anything in the taxes.”
Other residents said the tax hike is hard for them to bear, since they’re on Social Security or other fixed incomes.
Summit Park resident David Shank said he’d rather not see any further trail development in his area. He sees the impact of visitors as he’s biking in his neighborhood.
“Many times I’m riding, and vans go whizzing by, SUV’s and all these cars and trucks and stuff. I haven’t had any real serious issues with safety. But certainly they’re not really watching out for me. And then they park all over the place up there. Most of the cars and trucks that I see are not from Summit County. They’re out of Salt Lake City. These guys are coming up and using the trails, like someone else said, they’re not paying for it. Probably making money off of em, some of the big vans I see.”
But a few speakers favored the tax increase. Paul Reddy, from Silver Springs, said he’s one of the parents with youngsters who find that the facilities of Basin Recreation are critical.
“I’m late actually because I was dropping my son off at the field house. And if you were over there tonight like I was, you would see five or six teams practicing on the fields. You would see kids crawling all over each other in the gym, and a wave of kids coming in and out. So those facilities are getting used. They’re at capacity. Nobody wants more taxes. I can tell you I don’t want any more taxes. But I can tell that it’s come time for more taxes, and for more facilities.”
The director of the Recreation District, Brian Hanton, said they know the tax increase impacts residents, and they held off proposing it as long as they could.
He added they have had conversations about ways to set user fees or tags for non-county visitors. But even if they could do that, there’s a cost to enforcing a system.
While one speaker noted that in Salt Lake, users of, for instance, Millcreek Canyon can be charged a fee for access, Hanton said it’s not that easy for the trail system in the Basin.
“We’ve reached out to the commercial users, and tried to put some restrictions on them. I think we have 15 trailheads, and almost 170 miles of trail. To be able to monitor all that is another challenge that we’ll have. I mean, not to say that we wouldn’t try to do that, and we will. But just knowing that it’s not just, where, Millcreek, you have a narrow stretch that people have to go through. Here, we have an abundance of, you can come in from different areas, and utilize the trails in all different directions.”
The County Council is scheduled to meet next week, December 11th, for their final budget hearings and approvals. Council Member Kim Carson suggested that a Council sub-group meet with the Recreation District before then and see if some of their planned expenditures can be put off.