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The ZAP-tax extension approved last fall by Salt Lake County voters not only will give residents more zoo, arts and parks activities to enjoy, it also will help take care of existing amenities.
Mayor Ben McAdams told the County Council on Tuesday that he would like to set aside a third of the funds generated from a proposed 2016 general-obligation bond, partly underwritten with ZAP-tax revenues, to pay for maintenance of county facilities.
That idea was well received by council members, especially Republican Max Burdick. They were appalled several years ago to find out how badly many county structures had fallen into disrepair because of a lack of upkeep.
"This is a great thing to do," said Burdick, acknowledging that while "it's exciting to look at new stuff, and not quite as exciting to look back at the stuff we have to take care of," keeping existing parks, trails and recreation centers functioning effectively is essential to the quality of life for a million residents.
Over the past couple of years, McAdams and the council have budgeted more money to catch up on deferred maintenance. They plan to continue that effort with proceeds from a general-obligation bond that will be put before voters in November 2016.
"We make appropriations [for deferred maintenance] every year," the mayor said, characterizing the bond money as "additional [pressure] on the pedal to get there."
The general-obligation bond will be called ZAP III because its proceeds would go to zoo, arts and parks projects that will be developed after voters, for the third time, agreed in November to continue a penny tax on every $10 purchase in the county.
A general-obligation bond issued 10 years ago, after ZAP II passed, raised $85 million. With different economic conditions now, county Chief Financial Officer Darrin Casper is projecting the next bond would generate $75 million. Of that total, McAdams wants about $25 million to be used to catch up on overdue repairs and replacement projects.
"Sometimes deferred maintenance sounds boring," McAdams said, "but we've found it can be exciting. Taking a weed field in Kearns and turning it into a ballpark, I think that's exciting."
He was referring to last summer's work to turn Bruce Field from a dilapidated baseball diamond at 4290 W. 4865 South into a multipurpose field with a playground.
Responding to a council request for an estimate of the extra operations and maintenance costs assumed by the county with a new round of ZAP projects, county Community Services Director ErinLitvack could not provide a precise figure until specific projects are selected.
But she gave the council spreadsheets showing that the county took on $1.7 million in operation and maintenance costs as well as 24 full-time employees in developing the $85 million in projects funded with the last general-obligation bond.
In addition, she noted, the $47 million parks bond authorized by voters in 2013 created $762,000 worth of ongoing operating expenses, including seven employees' salaries.
"If we add $75 million in assets, the capital-maintenance budget would [have to] go up two to four percent," Litvack projected.
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