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Grand County making deep budget cuts due to lack of tourism

MOAB, Utah — With no tourists, and very few expected in the next few months, Grand County is planning to make budget cuts to compensate for lost revenue. 

Grand County Council Administrator Chris Baird says they’ve got tough decisions to make as most of the county’s money comes from tourism tax dollars. 

Grand County budget cuts 

According to Baird, Grand County officials must cut up to 30% of their general budget for one reason. Lack of tax revenue.  So the county is looking to  reduce hours for workers, cut salaries and cancel capital and planning projects. Additionally, 10% of county workers are already furloughed.

Grand County, where Arches National Park is located, “relies on over 70% of its revenue directly from tourism sources.  Another 15% is indirectly related to tourism.  So, 85% of Grand County’s spending money comes from the taxes people pay on hotels, dining in restaurants and rental cars,” Baird said.   

“And the majority of the population,” Baird notes, “is reliant on jobs in those industries, and now they are out of work.”

Many residents of Grand County cannot contribute to the local economy due to being out of a job.

Where is the money going? 

To complicate matters, Utah law requires Grand County to spend 48% of its room tax revenue on tourism advertising. But since tourism is tanking, Grand County officials say they have no alternative but to make budget cuts. 

“This is very prohibitive in allowing them [the council] to shift funds into diversifying their economy,” says Baird. 

Baird says they’ve tried for decades to convince the Utah legislature to allow the county to spend advertising funds on getting more industries into the county, but to little success. 

The upshot: Grand County must make deep budget cuts to slow the economic bleeding.

Baird is optimistic tourism will pick up in the fall, with the hope some workers can return to their jobs.