By Myrna Trauntvein
All those attending the public hearing on the Parks, Arts and Recreation (PAR) Tax, Wednesday prior to council meeting, unanimously agreed that they approved of the question being added to the ballot.
One thing is clear, said Glade Nielson, mayor, the PAR Tax can only be used for one of those specified uses. It cannot be used to build roads, install lights, replace bridges or do any city work not allowed by the state mandated rules allowing the PAR Tax in the first place.
The PAR Tax is allowed under Utah law and uses for the money are restricted. In Nephi’s case, it is estimated that the point-of-sale PAR Tax would generate $80,000 per year.
“It is not a property tax,” said Seth Atkinson, city administrator. “It is a sales tax of one-tenth of 1 percent and is equal to one cent for every $10 spent. The tax will only be on sales inside the city limits.”
“It is a ten-year tax and the city would need to put it back on the ballot in ten years if they wanted to keep using it,” he said.
He said that a family that spends $100 a month on qualifying purchases will pay an additional 10-cents per month.
If, for example, a person, including tourists and those just passing through, were to spend $10 at a store, one cent would be allocated to PAR Tax. It is a point-of-sale tax.
Lindsey Cuff, Randy Cuff, Jessica Whipple, Tiffany Hancock, Stephanie Hall, Kami Crump, Ruth Bonzo and Jennifer Evans all spoke, asking questions and/or making statements.
“What is the timeline?” asked Crump.
It was likely, said Atkinson, that the city would wait one to two PAR Tax payment cycles, which occur quarterly, to make certain of the amount that would come to the city.
“We could begin to use the tax in the summer of next year (2019),” said Atkinson.
Evans asked what percentage of the collected PAR Tax would go to parks, arts and recreation.
“That is yet to be determined,” said Atkinson. “Nephi residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback and input into how the funds are distributed. The city will suggest potential projects.”
As with each budget year, he said, residents will have the opportunity to be informed of those projects and provide input during public hearings.
Nathan Memmott, council member, said that the council has agreed upon a phased approach to building recreation facilities.
Whipple, president of the Juab Fine Arts Council, said that the council had use of the small theater in the county building but would welcome a recreation center that was all inclusive.
She had been with the organization for nine years and they had sponsored cultural events and had brought in outside talent to benefit the area. When money came to the city from the PAR Tax she thought that there would be sports as well as cultural events to benefit everyone.
“Maybe there could be an auditorium as part of the recreation center,” she said.
“Initially, we would not have an auditorium,” said John Bradley, city recreation director. “We will have multipurpose spaces.”
However, those spaces, while they would not have a stage or curtain, could be used for arts as well as sports. Perhaps it would be possible to save money for a future auditorium but the first phase of proposal would be for the creation of a recreation center.
Hancock asked if there was a reason a PAR Tax could not be raised county-wide.
Bradley said that the city had talked to the county commission, one of the state requirements, and they had declined.
Larry Ostler, city council member, said that the road tax, a ballot question, was only passed by the residents of Nephi and, for that reason, failed. Cuff asked how the ballot question could be advertised if the city could not use funds to let others know about it.
“We can’t promote it,” said Kasey Wright, city administrator, “but we can educate.”
Bradley said that the city could tell people the facts.
Wright said that the citizens interested in promoting the PAR Tax were under no such obligation and, they could exercise their right to freedom of speech as private citizens. They would only be under the constraints of the Bill of Rights.
“The older folks in the city need to be educated,” said Skip Worwood, city council member. “Education is the key.”
Because of some of the questions being asked the council, he thought that people did not understand what a PAR Tax was and were mixing it up with a property tax not a sales tax.
“Can I put an ad in the paper?” asked Randy Cuff.
He could, said Wright. He was a private citizen.
Bonzo, who is a librarian, said that her family had benefited from both the sports and arts programs in the last 10 years.
“It is a great thing you are doing,” she said. “Even if you use the grounds as a place for outdoor arts programs, it would be good.”
As for the location, said Memmott, the city was still considering options. The land they own on the south west of the city lacked infrastructure and, while that could be part of the project, it might be wise to put it where there was infrastructure.
Another concern with the city-owned site was that the youth would have to cross a busy roadway to get to and from the site.
One concern anyone promoting the tax will have to address, said Justin Seely, council member, is the question from residents on whether the city had enough money to take care of needs of the city and recreation.
“It is something you will have to deal with,” said Seely. “Some people don’t understand the difference between the PAR Tax and property tax.”
“The PAR Tax cannot be used for those city services,” said Wright. “This money can only be used for Parks, Arts and Recreation.”
Evans said that, in her opinion, this was the best money the city would spend.
“We will be using the money as collateral,” said Memmott. “If we do something that costs too much, we would not have the money to pay any loan after 10 years so we need to make sure we have the money to pay the obligations.”
That was why the city was doing the recreation projects in phases so as to not go too crazy. The Nephi Sports Park Recreation Task Force had been considering all sorts of funding.
Until the PAR Tax was passed and the city would know they would have a base of approximately $80,000 per year for ten years, businesses and corporations had not been approached for a certain monetary number that they might contribute to the project.
“We are learning from others (communities) that have been successful in getting approval for the PAR Tax,” said Nielson.