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Road Tax Needs Big Picture Discussion

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Cameron Diehl, a representative from Utah League of Cities and Towns spoke with the Morgan City Council on Tuesday night about a road sales tax proposition.

“The influence we (Utah League of Cities and Towns) have at the capital is really because of you. Representative Logan Wilde is one of the best legislators at the capital. The reason is because he’s a local government guy. The League is constantly advocating for communities like Morgan.”

Diehl discussed the laws and legislation regarding sales tax percentages that can be allotted for transportation and roads. Diehl said, “Transportation needs in Morgan are just as big as any city on the Wasatch front. The league has successfully advocated for additional transportation through the sales taxes so cities and counties can address their transportation needs.”

Diehl broke down the system that can open funds to counties and cities across the state. Called quarters (for a quarter cent), there are percentages of sales taxes that can be used to allow for more funding for roads and transit. Although the state can authorize 5 different quarters instead of 4. For example, local city sales tax use 1% of taxes, but the state can authorize up to 1.25%.

The money is state authorized, county imposed, and each quarter has a different set of rules for how that money can be spent, some rules depend on what the counties impose.

Quarter #1: This was authorized in early 80s. The percentage sent local options specifically for the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). Morgan City does not have any of the transportation options in this quarter. The first one was authorized for UTA when it was only busses. The Wasatch Front has authorized this quarter, but expanded the definition from only bus transportation to allow for transit in general. And now, there are more transit systems outside of UTA. This first allotment from sales tax can be used exclusively on transit.

Quarter #2: This percentage is specifically used for roads and transit. As an example, Utah County uses a good amount of these funds for the frontrunner. Unfortunately, Morgan County is actually ineligible to impose the 2nd quarter according to Diehl, due to the lack of transit.

#3: This percentage is allotted specifically for roads, transit options, and airports.

#4: This percentage is split into three parts. .10% of the quarter goes City governments, .10% goes to transit in areas where transit exists, and .05% goes to County governments. However, in areas like Morgan where this isn’t transit, the transit .10% goes to the county.

#5: This percentage is a tricky one for Morgan County. Counties can only use this 0.20% by imposing all prior four quarter percentages from the sales tax. Currently, Weber county is the only county to impose all 4 quarters. Salt Lake County is soon to join them.

Diehl spoke with the City council because the State legislature is adamant to impose a ‘use it or lose it’ system regarding these percentages and quarters. If counties throughout the state opt not to impose the 4th and 5th quarters then the bill expires by 2022.

This proves difficult for Morgan County, due to the fact the county isn’t able to qualify for all the quarters. Diehl presented some discussion topics that both the City and County Councils can discuss in coming months. Diehl said, “The thing to think about is annexing Morgan into a relationship with UTA and possibly Park City transit on the Wasatch Back in order to qualify for all the 5 quarters so the state wouldn’t take away the options. This is all based on sales taxes, excluding food.”

He continued saying, “These can be imposed without voter approval. It’s a bigger picture discussion that would involve the county and city councils.”

The needs would need to be assessed and discussed with City employees, especially those responsible for the road care and maintenance in the county and city. More transit could be useful for commuters, but also provide more traffic in the growing county.

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