What does it mean if it doesn’t start snowing?
Well, it makes winter here less fun… but it also means our local governments miss out on sales tax, report taxes, and Transient Room Tax (basically taxes paid by visitors using our hotels that can be used for specific things like tourism, recreation, etc.).
It appears that sales tax makes up about 15% of Summit County revenues. Taxes make up over 23% of Park City’s revenues.
Right now, due to lack of snow, our city and county managers have to be concerned. Is there enough money?
I had family in town over the Christmas holiday. I guarantee you they didn’t go back to Chicago and tell their friends how great Park City skiing is. I would imagine they are not alone. The lack of snow is going to impact reservations for MLK, Presidents’ Day, and spring break bookings. It’s also going to impact next Christmas as folks are going to be wary about coming during the early season, next year.
During a recent County Council meeting, County Manager Tom Fisher said he feared another recession (as he probably should). It doesn’t look like a recession is on the books… but this could impact us similarly. The problem is that the government has expanded our services based on the anticipation of these taxes. The Summit County budget, for example, has increased dramatically over the past few years (0ver 30%), while population growth has not.
Yet, in some ways I won’t be sorry if we have a winter without snow. Things feel over heated here. I enjoy skiing but I could give that up for a year, if it meant some stabilization. I’d like to know where we really are. I’d like to know what our community can really afford. I’d like to see mortgage rates at normal levels, so we know how much home people can really buy long-term. I’d like to know whether we really need another hotel at the Colby School. I’d like I’d like to know whether the current housing prices are an outlier or not, so we understand whether our schools will see an influx of children (if housing prices drops) or whether second home owners continue to rule.
I’d also like to know whether we truly have money to continue our bus program. I have fallen in love with the bus, and especially the 10 minute intervals for the Electric Express, but I’m not sure it makes sense economically.
I’d like to see whether we have good leadership. It’s often easy to lead when you are flush with cash… but the true test comes when there is adversity.
Frankly, no one knows what the weather will bring. We could record amazing snow through February, March, and April and no one may remember that this year started slow.
However, if it keeps the current pace, I likely won’t be sad. I’ll feel for those individuals who have to endure the hardship, but in the long-term our community will probably benefit from knowing what it truly is and what its capabilities are.