Parks Bond? Is $6 a year worth the price?
One of Peter Corroon's final goals as Salt Lake County mayor was to get a bond passed to help provide more and better parks and trails for generations of valley residents to come.
He originally wanted $123 million, but, in June, the Republican-led County Council said no.
So Corroon, a Democrat, came back a month later with a pared-back $47 million proposal, focusing on advancing plans for four regional projects and essentially completing the Jordan River Parkway and Parleys Trail systems.
This time the council said go ahead, put the plan on the Nov. 6 ballot to let the people decide.
If voters say yes to the 20-year bond, it would mean a property tax increase of $5.73 per year for the owner of a $238,000 home (the median price for residential properties in the county) and $10.24 for a business of the same value.
That's down from Corroon's original proposal, which would have cost that homeowner $14 a year and that business owner about $22.
It's still too much, said Royce Van Tassell, of the business-backed Utah Taxpayers Association.
"They want to expand their portfolio of parks and trails. That is the very definition of wasteful spending and sounds suspiciously like a justification for raising taxes again," he said, citing expected maintenance costs of almost $600,000 annually on the projects in the bond.
Corroon's original $123 million bond proposal included $26 million to pay for deferred maintenance on existing parks. Van Tassell pointed to that lingering need in arguing against adding to the county's parks system.
"Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pay for new parks and trails when [the county] cannot even pay for what it's got," he said. "It is incumbent upon the county to tell taxpayers this is how we're going to take care of what we've got first."
But to Sarah Bennett, an Emigration Canyon resident and member of the county's Trails Advisory Committee, every dollar spent now on preserving trails and open spaces is invaluable even if she would have preferred to see Corroon's $123 million proposal on the ballot.
"In the long run, the Jordan River Parkway and Parleys Trail are going to be incredible assets for our community. I support anything that completes important regional trails like that," she said.
"Those are going to be huge community assets," Bennett added. "I encourage whatever new administration comes into the county to take a more serious look at other bond measures committing funds to help develop areas at the margins of our communities."
The bond proposal on Tuesday's ballot would spend:
• $11.5 million on the Jordan River Parkway, completing four gaps in the 45-mile, nonmotorized paved trail from Utah to Davis counties.
• $9 million to build five sections of Parleys Trail, which would connect the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to the Jordan River Parkway.
• $10 million on Southwest Regional Park at 14000 S. 2700 West in Bluffdale, an 80-acre site bought from the LDS Church in 2008.
• $6 million to develop a farming-themed regional park, the Gene and Deane Wheadon Farm, on 64 acres at 13800 S. 440 East in Draper.
• $5 million to develop sports facilities, pavilions, playgrounds and trails on 62 acres at Lodestone Regional Park, 6170 W. 5990 South, in Kearns and West Valley City.
• $5.5 million to buy the old Hercules site from ATK and to begin plans for a 60-acre regional park in Magna.
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For additional information
To learn more about Proposition No. 1, a proposal to issue $47 million in bonds to pay for regional parks and trails, go to http://www.slco.org/parkbond.