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.
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.