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Wasatch County to add transit sales tax next year

The Wasatch County Council chambers are in the Wasatch County Administration Building at 25 North Main Street in Heber City.
Ben Lasseter
The Wasatch County Council chambers are in the Wasatch County Administration Building at 25 North Main Street in Heber City.

Wasatch County shoppers will see a new sales tax on their receipts in January. The money will go to transit and public safety needs.

After months of discussion, the Wasatch County Council voted to implement a new 0.3% sales tax at its meeting Wednesday, July 3. It will apply to most purchases, excluding gas and groceries.

The tax is expected to generate roughly $3.6 million in revenue. County leaders say they expect to use the funds for projects such as accessible transit, increased bus frequency and better micro-transit service. About $900,000 would go to the sheriff’s office for public safety improvements.

Midway resident Jeff Chevalier lambasted the council for scheduling the public hearing the day before the Fourth of July holiday, saying the timing made it difficult for residents to share their opinions.

Though Chevalier said he’s been a regular public transportation user in other places he’s lived and visited, he said it isn’t the right choice for the Heber Valley. He objects to micro-transit in particular – vans that take riders to destinations in the valley that aren’t accessible by the 106 bus line between Park City and Heber.

“This is Utah, not California. This is Wasatch County, not Summit County,” he said. “When does the taxing and spending stop? What services should government be providing? I ask again, why should county taxpayers pay for free Uber or Lyft rides for anyone that can download and operate the app?”

Councilmember Mark Nelson shared a public comment resident Angie Richardson emailed to the council, saying that she was “opposed to a service that benefits just a few of the citizens.”

But Nelson said her comments made him see the issue differently.

“Our tax dollars pay for a lot of services that benefit just a few of the citizens, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “When I read her comment, it made me think to myself, have I ever used the pickleball courts that we spent taxpayer dollars? When’s the last time I checked a book out of the library? Umm, never. How about our great skate park? …I just think that the people who are using this – not all of them, but many of the people who are using this – really need this, and it really helps them.”

Councilmember Karl McMillan added he knows elderly county residents who can be more independent because of High Valley Transit’s services.

The tax resolution passed with a 4-2 vote.

Councilmembers Kendall Crittenden and Luke Searle voted against the resolution, and Erik Rowland was absent. Crittenden said he wanted more discussion of how funds would be allocated before the vote.

“I’m more in favor of increasing the paratransit, rather than additional micro-transit or expanded bus hours,” he said. “I’d perhaps like to see a greater percentage than 25 go to public safety.”

Currently, the resolution provides for 25% of the tax revenue to go to public safety needs and 75% to go to public transportation. But those amounts could be amended in future council meetings.

The tax will add a cost of three cents for every $10 in purchases. It will go into effect in January 2025.

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