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Cedar Hills to vote on tax hike

The boost would go to parks, arts, recreation

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CEDAR HILLS — The Cedar Hills City Council decided this week to put a parks, arts and recreation sales tax on November's ballot for residents to decide if they would like to increase sales tax within the city by one-tenth of 1 percent.

The decision comes as the city prepares for commercial growth that is headed its way in the form of a Wal-Mart and several other retail stores within a development that is expected to be completed by November.

"We have never discussed it before because we have never had any retail in the city," City Councilman Eric Richardson said. "There was nothing to collect. The thought to bring it on now is because we are going to start to have sales tax revenue so we think it is important enough that it should be on the ballot in November."

The tax would be identical to the one passed by Salt Lake City in 1996 to help the arts, parks and zoos. While this is the first step in getting the process moving in Cedar Hills, they plan to be more specific as to what the money would be used for to help the city's parks and trails.

Richardson said that whenever these taxes are discussed the debate ensues as to why not increase property tax instead of the sales tax. While he thinks the debate is a valid one, the answer for him is easy.

"One reason why to do the sales tax is that it is based on everyone who buys things in the city, whereas it is just the people that live here that are affected by raising the property taxes," he said. "And with the new development I would think a lot of visitors from nearby cities will be shopping in our city as well."

Richardson says that based on a conservative look at other cities, a reasonable assumption would be that the city could collect up to $50,000 every quarter from the PAR tax. So making up $200,000 a year in property taxes, which bring in around $700,000 a year currently, would take a larger toll on residents than would the PAR tax.

While the PAR tax law lists golf courses as a possible recipient of PAR funds, the City Council was clear that if voters approved the tax in November, they would not be using the revenue to pay for the city-owned golf course.

"The council discussed that, and it was unanimous that it would not be used for the golf course," said Councilman Ken Kirk. "We are confident that the reconfiguration of the course and development that is in the works will take care of the golf course debt and then it should sustain itself."

Kirk is glad that the issue will go before the 8,500 residents this November, and he thinks it has a good chance of passing.

"I think if the voters understand it and recognize the small impact of the tax itself on their income, then it should pass," said Kirk. "I personally am for it, and I am usually not for raising taxes, but this is one-tenth of 1 percent on our purchases that will allow us to do more with our parks and recreation facilities."

E-mail: ethomas@desnews.com