This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake County's new parks and recreation master plan is almost done.
So is the groundwork for a process to determine how funding made available by November's voter-approved extension of the Zoo Arts and Parks tax could be used to fill needs identified in that master plan, due out in June.
Up to $75 million could be available for those needs through a general obligation bond the county plans to issue using the parks portion of ZAP-tax revenue as collateral.
It's almost a renewal, really. Salt Lake County issued a similar bond 10 years ago after the tenth-of-a-cent ZAP sales tax diversion was first approved. That bond has been exhausted, but because Salt Lake County has maintained its AAA bond rating, Mayor Ben McAdams' financial advisers believe a new county bond would have the same tax rate as the old one.
That means taxpayers would avoid the sticker shock of larger tax bills, even if the debt payment is extended another decade.
In return, the bond would generate up-front cash for up to $75 million worth of parks, trails and recreation-center projects things voters said they liked in reauthorizing the ZAP tax by a 77 percent to 23 percent margin Nov. 4.
That doesn't mean the Republican-majority County Council has to spend the whole $75 million recommended by the Democratic mayor. But it gives the council a ceiling to keep in mind when considering the many applications for funding that will be submitted.
At this point, McAdams and the council seem to agree it would be best to divide the final bond amount into thirds two thirds going to new projects, the other third reserved for maintenance of existing facilities and programs.
Where opinions differ right now is over the importance of "environmental efficiency" in grading project applications, a job that will fall to a ZAP Recreational Facilities Advisory Board scheduled to be created and filled with 17 members June 2.
Council Democrats felt environment efficiency should be one of four main points of judging projects. "It's good to show we take the environment seriously, not that we're going to spend every dime on it, but we're taking it seriously," said Jim Bradley.
But the Republicans decided that while it's an important consideration, it should not be weighted as heavily as three other things: Whether an application fits into the master plan, has another source of revenue to address costs, or fills geographical holes in the county where parks, trails or rec centers are lacking.
"I don't want to handcuff us" with too many requirements for how the money has to be used, said Republican Councilman Steve DeBry, whose party prevailed 5-3 in the vote to relegate environmental efficiency to secondary importance (Democrat Arlyn Bradshaw was absent.)
The council is scheduled to finalize its project application criteria June 2, the same day it appoints the 17-member review board.
That board will include mayors from four valley cities, but it will have heavy county representation the parks and recreation director, two people from the parks and recreation board and one from the open space advisory committee. The council also will pick five community members at large and have four more picks of its own choosing. Advice also will be provided by non-voting board members from the county's community services department and its ZAP program.
Once the parks and recreation master plan is out "we're knocking the rough edges off the corners," director Martin Jensen said last week the advisory board will begin seeking applications, probably in late June or early July.
Proposals tentatively must be submitted by late October, giving the advisory board six months to evaluate and rank them for presentation to the County Council. The council would have two months to finalize the project list to send to voters for approval in November 2016.
ZAP Advisory Board
A 17-member board will review applications for funding through a general obligation bond will be financed in part by voter extension of the Zoo Arts and Parks tax. Members will include:
• 5 from the community at large
• 4 mayors of Salt Lake Valley cities
• 2 County Parks & Recreation Advisory Board members
• 1 County Open Space Advisory Board member
• County Parks & Recreation Division Director
• 4 appointees at discretion of the County Council.
The county's Community Services Department director and ZAP program director are non-voting members
Source: Salt Lake County website