"I have a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time."
-- Charles M. Schulz
Real and serious tax concerns on the part of local governments remain as discussions on municipal taxing issues continue to unfold on Utah's Capitol Hill.
For close to three decades, Utah cities have been using a formula to equitably divide the 1 percent local option sales tax that the existing law allows them to charge. A recommendation is being made in the current legislative session to change this formula.
It is not mandatory that a city or town have this tax, but, if it does, it must be as outlined by state law. Currently all cities and towns in Utah assess this tax.
Of the 1 percent collected, half goes to the local government where the goods are sold. The other half is placed in a pot and distributed according to population.
While it may or may not be the most accurate way of looking at distribution of these funds, it is one that the cities have agreed on and it seems fair to smaller communities that do not have the commercial base of the larger ones.
When this formula changed years ago, it required additional funding so the entities that would be hurt by the new formula could be made whole. Now the recommended changes involve ideas like 50 percent point of sale and 50 percent by the assessed value of property. Another recommendation suggests that the number of school children in an entity be thrown into the mix.
The problem with any new change in the formula is the same problem that existed years ago. There will always be winners and losers.
There is not a perfect formula out there, but what we have, works.
While there are allegations that the formula promotes zoning for dollars (i.e. encouraging a local government to zone for more commercial to be able to collect the sales tax, rather than for white collar employment industries that do not produce a sales tax), it has not been proven that there is a problem.
The unknown and sometimes uncertain consequences of such a change may not be worth the risk. There is no guarantee that the solutions proposed will bring about a specific result.
Bottom line: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.