It's official: If voters approve the April 9 special bond election to help fund the proposed Utah Valley Special Events Center, burger eaters will help foot the bill.
County commissioners Wednesday officially declared their intent to repay the $7.7 million in general obligation bonds with money received from a 1 percent restaurant tax."I think this is the fairest way possible to repay this bond," Commissioner Gary Herbert said.
The county and Utah Valley Community College are proposing a joint effort to construct the $18 million, 8,000-seat center on the northwest corner of UVCC's campus. The center would be an expansion of UVCC's plan to build a new physical education building. If the county contributes $7.7 million, the state will contribute the rest to build the expanded facility.
Recently passed House Bill 438 allows counties to impose a 1 percent tax on prepared foods to fund tourism, convention, recreation and cultural activities. By imposing the tax, the county will receive between $700,000 and $800,000 annually. The annual bond payment is estimated to be about $700,000.
At least two restaurant owners and one local mayor are not pleased with the Commission's decision.
Barry Gornichec, owner of the Park View Drive Inn in Spanish Fork, said imposing the tax is going to have a negative impact on the local restaurant industry. He called the special events center "another Salt Palace fiasco" and said using the restaurant tax to fund it will benefit businesses located near UVCC only.
"All it is going to do is move business around. It is not going to help anybody," he said.
Gornichec said the Utah Restaurant Association opposes the tax and predicts the tax will be repealed. However, Herbert said restaurant association officials are the ones who introduced the bill to legislators, and it was only after the Legislature gave counties control over the tax that the association backed off the bill.
Andy Shelline, owner of the Spanish Fork McDonald's, said the association lobbied against the bill only after the Legislature exempted convenience stores from the tax. The tax is now discriminatory and, therefore, the county should not impose it. It would be more fair to repay the bond by increasing property taxes, he said.
"It would be more appropriate and certainly less painful on us as taxpayers," Shelline said.
Lehi Mayor Guy Cash opposes using the restaurant tax to retire the bond also. Using the tax to support one project would not be in the best interest of the entire county, he said.
"This has strictly become an Orem/Provo issue," Cash said. "I'm sure that other communities have viable projects that should be considered for some of that money."
Commissioners said the portion of the tax proceeds left after making the bond payment will go toward other county projects. Even though commissioners do not intend to impose the tax until the county is prepared to issue the bonds, they may do so earlier if legitimate needs arise.