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Wasatch County considers tax bump for transit

The High Valley Transit Heber Valley 106 route connects the Park City Old Town Transit Canter to stops throughout Heber City.
High Valley Transit
The High Valley Transit Heber Valley 106 route connects the Park City Old Town Transit Canter to stops throughout Heber City.

Residents can share their thoughts on the Wasatch County Council’s proposal to add a new tax for transit and public safety at its meeting Wednesday. Then the council is expected to vote.

The county council has been discussing the future of public transportation in the Heber Valley since February, when High Valley Transit Executive Director Caroline Rodriguez said demand for the service has soared since it was first introduced in the county.

Fare-free transit arrived in the valley in November 2022, with the 106 bus route between Park City and Heber and micro-transit vans that go to areas the bus doesn’t cover. In its first 14 months of operation, it provided almost 230,000 rides.

The service costs around $3.5 million annually, and transit sales tax currently only generates around $3 million. That’s because overall sales tax revenue was lower than expected last year, and the service was more popular than predicted.

If approved, the new sales tax would close that gap. Wasatch County Manager Dustin Grabau said it would add a 0.3% tax to most purchases, excluding gas and groceries. Utah law allows the county to allocate some of that tax revenue to public safety.

“Right now, the draft resolution shows that we’re suggesting a 25% allocation to public safety uses, and the other remaining 75% towards transit,” he said. “The things that we have talked about over the course of this year are funding paratransit, increased bus frequency, potentially better or additional micro service.”

The tax would generate an estimated $3.6 million in revenue, $900,000 of which would go to public safety improvements. The county is working with the sheriff’s office to figure out the best way to spend those funds.

High Valley Transit’s services are free to riders. In a past county council meeting, Rodriguez and Grabau explained the profit from collecting fees is minimal and it discourages people from using transit – especially riders who most need the service.

There will be time for public comment at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We do expect to have some robust feedback,” Grabau said.

Residents can attend in person or online.

If the council approves the proposed transit tax, it will go into effect in October.

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