Learn BEFORE you vote. (Not an official website of American Fork City.)

Tag: sales tax

On Renewing the PARC Tax

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.

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Guest View: John Mulholland on the PARC Tax

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.

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Meet the American Fork City Council Candidates (Parts 9-12)

On Saturday morning State Auditor John Dougall moderated a meet-the-candidates event at American Fork Hospital. It was part of their Pancakes and Politics series, which is sponsored by the American Fork Chamber of Commerce.

Kevin Barnes

Kevin Barnes

No one in the area has more credibility in the moderator’s role than John Dougall. And the free breakfast was good too. About 40 people attended, not counting the candidates and the moderator. The audience was noticeably older than Wednesday evening’s.

The format was a bit different from Wednesday evening, and some of the questions seemed a bit redundant, but there was more discussion of some key issues, as well as some treatment of issues which didn’t arise on Wednesday evening.

All four candidates were there: incumbents Brad Frost and Rob Shelton, and challengers Allen Simpson and Kevin Barnes.

My audio recording of this event is not of professional quality (that’s no surprise), and there’s a fair amount of background noise. But it’s easy to follow. I’ve broken it up into four segments of about 20 minutes each. For each segment, I’ll list the topics and the order in which the candidates responded.

First Segment

Audio link: 2015_Saturday_1

Brad Frost

Councilman Brad Frost

Opening Statements (3 minutes each; Frost – Shelton – Simpson – Barnes)

  • Brad Frost: “Let me see the facts, and I will make a decision.”
  • Robert Shelton: “We were able to find over the last three years $1.8 million in budget cuts. . . . We were able to do more with less.”
  • Allen Simpson: “I’ve been successful at leading teams of people who were not used to following.”
  • Kevin Barnes: “I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not after anybody’s throat. I just want to serve.”

Questions (one-minute responses):

  • water rates (Shelton – Simpson – Barnes – Frost)
  • experience (Simpson – Barnes – Frost – Shelton)
  • more experience (Barnes – Frost – Shelton – Simpson)

Second Segment

Audio link: 2015_Saturday_2


  • property and sales taxes, tax cuts (Frost – Shelton – Simpson – Barnes)
  • developers vs. residents (Shelton – Simpson – Barnes – Frost)
  • why running, what do you what to accomplish (Simpson – Barnes – Frost – Shelton)
  • top two priorities for City’s limited resources (Barnes – Frost – Shelton – Simpson)

Third Segment

Allen Simpson

Allen Simpson

Audio link: 2015_Saturday_3


  • police questioning of people who haven’t broken the law (Frost – Shelton – Simpson – Barnes)
  • the study saying American Fork is the 4th or 5th most-taxes city in Utah (Shelton – Simpson – Barnes – Frost)
  • areas of City government that need changes (Simpson – Barnes – Frost – Shelton)
  • roads (Barnes – Frost – Shelton – Simpson)

Fourth Segment

Rob Shelton

Councilman Rob Shelton

Audio link: 2015_Saturday_4


  • building department (Frost – Shelton – Simpson – Barnes)
  • what to cut in the budget (Shelton – Simpson – Barnes – Frost)
  • off-street parking and snow removal (Simpson – Barnes – Frost – Shelton)

Closing Statements (two minutes each; Barnes – Frost – Shelton – Simpson)

You may also enjoy notes and audio from the Wednesday evening candidates event.

Do American Forkers Really Have the 4th or 5th Highest City Taxes in Utah?

The short answer is no.

Yes, there’s a study that came out this summer, saying that the municipal tax burden on American Fork residents is the fourth or fifth highest in Utah. It used two different methodologies, which is why there are two different answers. Yes, AFCitizens and candidate Allen Simpson are passing out fliers around town touting that study.

But no, the study’s methodology is fatally flawed. And no, it’s not hard to explain.

American Fork tax burden deception

In this section of the AFCitizens flier Allen Simpson is distributing, the thought bubble cites the bad study.

The study calculated the tax burden on residents of various cities by adding the total property and sales tax revenues in the city, then dividing that amount by the number of residents in the city. See the problem? Among other things, it assumes that the bulk of sales tax revenue collected in American Fork is paid by residents of American Fork. A little common sense should be enough to make us reject those results. Why it wasn’t enough to make the folks who are quoting it in the current city council campaign reject the study is a fair question.

I’ve talked with American Fork City and Utah State officials, and none of them knows of a credible recent study of these things, but it is widely estimated that well more than half of the sales tax revenue collected in American Fork comes from shoppers who live elsewhere. The City’s largest single source of sales tax revenue, a large auto dealership — which collects customer addresses — has reported that about 90 percent of the sales tax it collects in American Fork comes from nonresidents.

This means at least two things: The study has grossly overreported American Fork residents’ tax burden. — unless, of course, you believe that American Forkers pay as much sales tax in other cities as nonresidents pay in ours. And the candidate who is passing out the flier, Allen Simpson, either doesn’t care about the facts (because the falsehood serves his political purposes) or is not disposed to dive deeply enough into them to understand them. Either way, we have here a temperament that may be poorly suited to service on the city council.

And this isn’t even one of the hard ones.

If you have a few minutes, read the study yourself, and decide for yourself. It’s a lot longer than this post, but it’s still not long.

There’s another problem with this part of the AFCitizens flier. It’s more technical. They’re mixing numbers from two studies — adding them together — and we have no way of knowing (did they check?) whether the two studies used compatible methodologies, similar definitions, the same time frame, etc. This is almost certain to lead to unreliable results.

I agree that some things are more costly in American Fork than they should be — water rates, for one thing. We’ll talk about those, and one faction’s misrepresentation of them, very soon.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’re so inclined, please post this graphic on Facebook or link to it on Twitter. Or e-mail it to your friends in American Fork. Or all of the above.

Help us spread the word. Because good people with bad data make bad decisions.

Learn before you vote.

Learn before you vote.