City finance director: State tax reform won’t hurt city revenues

Council mostly mum as state plan starts to sink in

Photo by Carter Pape

Moab city officials are processing a proposal to reform sales and income tax in the State of Utah after a state task force released the proposal late last week. Although many council members are leaning on city staff for help understanding the implications of the 182-page plan, Council Member Mike Duncan said that a proposal to rework the taxation of groceries is a concern at the front of his mind.

“All I know at this moment is what’s been published in the papers, leaving me queasy about folks having to file for a food tax refund once a year, and worse, the possibility of even lower state support of education,” Duncan said. “But I need to get better educated before taking a position.”

The Times-Independent reached out to the city council and mayor on Monday, Nov. 11, to ask for comments about the recently published tax reform proposal from the Utah State Legislature’s Tax Reform and Equalization Task Force. The full proposal was released on Nov. 7, and although council members said they were withholding judgment until they got a better look at the plan, city staff said that in one important way, the proposal would not hurt Moab.

“The Utah League of Cities and Towns worked with the Tax Restructuring committee to try and hold resort communities harmless in the restructuring process,” said Rachel Stenta, the city’s finance director. “The tax restructuring proposal as written is not projected to have a detrimental affect to city revenues.”

Concerns expressed earlier this year before the proposal was written and as lawmakers were making a statewide tour to various cities and towns—including Moab—to gather input, included concerns that tax reform might negatively impact the tax revenue for Moab.

The fear some city officials shared was that a broadening of the tax base would spell trouble for Moab, possibly reducing taxes on sales that underpins the city’s tax income budget—primarily, tourism-related sales and the Transient Room Tax levied at hotels—while increasing taxes on the sale of services and items of which Moab offers very little, such as professional services (lawyers, doctors, consultants and others) or car sales.

For now, however, it appears those concerns have been addressed, leaving the city’s budget largely untouched by statewide tax reform, officials estimate.