Kasey Wright served as City Attorney in American Fork from 2008 to 2018. He now serves as City Attorney in Nephi and also represents the Juab School District. He lives and practices in Juab County. He wrote this primarily for his own community but graciously allowed it to be reprinted here.
“A community is only as good as those who live in it.” I read this in a Nephi city council candidate’s campaign pamphlet. While this statement is true, it is even more true that a community is only as good as those who serve in it.
Community service comes in many forms: coaching little league, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway, volunteering at the 4th of July or Pioneer Day celebrations. Generally, we praise and appreciate those who provide community service. But there is one type of public servant who all too often is mocked and disrespected for their service: our local city council, commissioners, and school board members.
This week I received my mail-in ballot for the 2021 American Fork municipal election. Today, more swiftly than usual, I offer my handy, unapologetically opinionated guide for local voters.
On the ballot are a mayoral race, a city council race, and one proposition. (I have no idea why they call it Proposition #5.)
Before we start with the proposition, then move to the candidates, here’s some information:
Mail-in ballots may be mailed in, of course. You won’t need a stamp. They must be postmarked no later than Monday, November 1, 2021, the day before Election Day.
However, if you prefer to use a ballot drop box and save the City some postage, there’s one in American Fork at the public library, clearly marked, adjacent to the outdoor library return boxes. Official ballot drop boxes around the county will work too, even for this American Fork municipal election. Boxes will be available until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.
Cards on the table: I plan to vote yes on renewing the PARC tax for ten more years. In this post I’ll explain. I’ll also list and respond to some of the reasons I hear for opposition or skepticism about its renewal.
(We’re on the opinion and analysis side of AFelection.info now. If you only come for information, be advised that any information you find below is marshaled to persuade, not merely to inform.)
What Is the PARC Tax?
Several years ago, the Utah Legislature made it legal for cities to charge an additional 0.1% sales tax, if the funds are dedicated to park, recreation, arts, and cultural (PARC) programs. That’s one penny on ten dollars. It has different acronyms in different cities; you’ll see it called a RAP tax too. In the 2014 election American Fork voters approved such a proposal, about 55% to 45%. I voted for it then too.
Since then, over $6.4 million in PARC tax revenues have flowed into American Fork. Most of this came from out-of-town shoppers. We’ve seen substantial upgrades to Art Dye Park, among others, as well as a flowering of arts programs. (For example, the latter includes a series of free chamber music concerts, which begins this October in the American Fork Library rotunda.)
Overall, so far, 60% of PARC grants have gone to parks and recreation programs; 40% have gone to arts and cultural programs. Details are available at afparc.org.
Why I Vote Yes to Renew the PARC Tax
I have several reasons for liking the PARC tax, apart from my own, my family’s, and my neighbors’ enjoyment of all four letters in the acronym: P, A, R, and C.
Thursday saw American Fork mayoral and city council candidates gather to discuss their merits as candidates and their views of numerous issues. The American Fork Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, and the president of its board, Seth Holdaway, moderated. The audience numbered about sixty — more that we usually see at such events. I hope this foretells good voter participation in our 2021 election.
Members of the All About American Fork group on Facebook submitted the questions online before the event. None came from the audience at the event, but numerous key issues were raised, and there was ample time before and after the formalities for one-on-one conversations with candidates.
The PARC tax is up for renewal in American Fork. It is an additional 0.1% sales tax voters first approved in 2014. So, if you spend $100, you will pay 10 cents. There are some questions around the sales tax that I hope to answer here along with sharing my own personal experience being on the board of one of the organizations which received grants from PARC funds.
What is the PARC Tax? How does it work?
The process starts by applying for a grant. Applications are then reviewed by the PARC Advisory Board of Directors, and a recommendation is made to the city council. The city council can then adjust and vote on an allocation resolution, as it did on April 27, 2021. (Later, the city council approved adding the Timpanogos Chorale to the list of grant recipients.) The city council then is responsible to hold the groups accountable to use the money as they outlined. New applications are submitted each year.
How is it spent?
About 60% is going to the parks and recreation. About 40% is going to arts and cultural events. There is some information available on the website, but it appears to be out of date. It includes up to 2020 but not 2021.
Brian Thompson, chair of the PARC Board, said that grant money was used for capital expenses, such as musical instruments, in the past, but going forward that won’t be allowed. Only operational expenses will be covered. He also said the Board is encouraging groups to become more self-reliant and less dependent on tax dollars. It is worth noting that there is no compensation for being on the board.
A significant portion of the PARC funds given to arts organizations is used to pay salaries. PARC funds allocated to the parks do not pay salaries. The city either uses outside contractors or provides its own labor for those projects.
In my one-on-one interviews I asked members of the American Fork City Council what concerns they hear from residents. Interviews take different directions, but I also asked most of them, “If your term ended tomorrow, what have you done or accomplished of which you’re proudest?” In some cases, they disclaimed any personal credit and described […]
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