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Four cities in Salt Lake County are starting a three-year program to increase their ability to put on arts and cultural programs — and to obtain the Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) tax revenue to help them do it.

Arts councils in Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, Midvale and South Salt Lake will receive a ZAP grant of $10,000 a year, plus training expenses of up to $4,000, to promote the arts in their communities.

Their cities agreed to match the grant, with the overall funding going toward hiring or developing a professional city staff member to help all-volunteer arts councils put on community programming.

"This is an initial enticement to get city governments involved," said Bill Applegarth, mayor of Riverton and chairman of a committee that advises the County Council on how to divide the ZAP tax money available to small arts groups. "Our goal is to help a city or township to get a paid person on staff to help in the professionalism of administering these funds from ZAP."

About $1.8 million is projected to be available to small arts groups this year, almost $100,000 more than in 2013. The interest in acquiring funding is strong, said county ZAP program director Victoria Bourns, noting that 147 groups applied for 2014 funds.

"The enthusiasm for this among all of the arts councils is palpable," she said.

Bourns said the "Local Arts Agency Advancement Initiative" is designed to help smaller cities achieve the same kind of successes that Sandy and Murray have enjoyed in securing ZAP funding.

Both of those cities elevated their support for their municipal arts councils 20 years ago and have thrived, in part because of their ability to leverage ZAP grants into funding from other sources, she said.

Applegarth said funding for the initiative comes from ZAP tax collections that exceed projections as the county's economy improves. The advisory board hopes the economic upturn lasts long enough that every city in the county can participate in the three-year program.

County Councilman Steve DeBry, a Republican from South Jordan, wondered why all of this year's participating cities are from the valley's east side and expressed hope that west-side cities will have a similar chance later.

Applegarth assured him they would, noting that "the other [west-side cities] all knew about it but didn't apply." His own city, Riverton, did not because he felt "it would be better for us to wait."

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

Tax collections

Out of the $236.9 million in property taxes owed by Salt Lake County residents in 2013, the County Treasurer's office collected $230.2 million, or 97.2 percent.

Treasurer Wayne Cushing also said the amount of delinquent taxes fell to $43 million, down from its usual sum above $70 million.

He attributed the improved collection rate and decline in delinquencies to an improving economy, which made it easier for residents and developers to pay their taxes, and his office's continuing efforts to simplify the process.

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