I was sitting in yesterday afternoon’s Park City School Board public meeting on rebuilding the Kearns Campus, when a person made a very emotional plea. She said that she lived in Highland Estates and that last year’s School District tax increase almost caused her to sell her house. She said that if there is another bond that raises her property taxes she won’t be able to afford it. Her concern turned to anger when she spoke about adding on to schools that would enable Promentory residents (who are outside of our district) to attend Park City schools without paying their fair share.
Another person asked if residents of the new Park City Heights development would have to pay extra taxes, in response to a comment by school board officials that said they needed to add-on to McPolin Elementary to support the growth that will come from Park City Heights.
Another person brought up Park City High School and how $50 million of public money had been spent on building the school “and it has not gone well.”‘ Another person asked whether the school district had their financial estimates peer reviewed to ensure they were accurate.
At the most civil level, it highlights that people are starting to pay attention to how public money is being used — which is a good thing. At a less comfortable level, it highlights that many people who have lived here for a long time are getting fed up with how money is being spent and even more so at being priced out of the market.
Some might say, “that’s why we need affordable housing.” Yet, that ignores that a home owner who has lived in Silver Creek for 20 years probably doesn’t want to be forced to move to an apartment so they can continue to live around Park City. It’s an issue that runs through almost every decision that is made, and it crosses almost every traditional boundary.
For instance, most people want better schools. They also want lots of primary residents to live here to keep the community aspect of Park City intact. They don’t want sprawl or growth because that ruins the open space we have become accustomed to. They also don’t want higher taxes.
Yet, if we want better schools, either through newer buildings or the best teachers, that costs money. Secondary home owners pay much more in taxes than primary residents. The alternative to second homes is more commercial growth to increase the tax base. That induces growth.
It’s two diametrically opposed ideas, that are so far apart, common ground will likely be hard to find. It goes beyond transportation issues, affordable housing, and all the other “hot button” items. It’s a question of how Park City finds a way to stay true to itself — and in a way that should dominate every single decision.
A few years ago, a couple of people camped out in City Park in the name of Occupy Park City. The occupy movement was about inequality across America. While those people have since left City Park, the inequality still exists. And while many people want to focus on buzz words like “Keeping Park City Park City” the problem is bigger than that.
If yesterday’s meeting was an indicator of the beginning of a shift in sentiment of community residents, our leaders had better start to pay attention quickly. For this is a spark could become a full-fledged flame.