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RAP, ZAP, CARE, RAMP, RAPZ, PAR, PARAT.
No, this isn't a cryptogram.
These are different names for the zoo, arts, parks and recreation taxes growing in popularity throughout Utah. The sales tax, set at 0.1 percent, collects a penny for every $10 spent to fund different cultural programs.
Victoria Bourns, local ZAP program director, applauds what the tax has done for Salt Lake County.
"It's been fabulous," she said. "It's very gratifying to live in a community where people appreciate arts and culture and are willing to put their own money toward it."
In 2014, Salt Lake County raised $20.2 million through the tax with funds going to more than 190 different cultural, recreational and zoological organizations, such as Red Butte Garden and the Utah Arts Festival. Last year county residents renewed the ZAP tax for another 10 years, with 77 percent in favor, Bourns said.
As one of the first entities to pass the recreation tax in Utah, Salt Lake County is often viewed as a model for success. Since its 1996 resolution, five counties, including Weber and Summit, have followed suit.
But what happens when a county chooses to forgo the tax? For Davis and Utah counties the answer is simple: let individual cities decide.
City by city • Davis County Clerk Curtis Koch said it's a growing trend, with seven of 15 cities, such as North Salt Lake and Centerville, in Davis having adopted an arts and recreation tax, and several others, such as Layton, considering the move.
For a city to put the initiative on the ballot, the county must first establish its intent not to impose the tax countywide (so citizens are not taxed twice for the same thing). The Davis County Commission did so in their July 7 meeting, allowing West Bountiful and Woods Cross to put RAP renewal resolutions on the ballot this November.
Koch said Davis County previously looked into a countywide recreation tax in 2004, but the initiative failed with slightly more than 58 percent of residents voting against it. Part of the difficulty of a countywide RAP tax, he said, is that Davis does not have a collective recreation department to manage and distribute the funds.
Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn said another issue is how to divvy up the funds in a way that gives each city a fair share.
"There are pros and cons for doing it countywide versus city by city," he said. "City by city allows the individual city to put some focus on what they would like to do for their citizens. Countywide you might get people to accomplish something more large scale."
Millburn prefers to keep it on a city basis in Davis County because so many of the local municipalities have already established their own programs. He said a countywide RAP tax "hasn't been on the radar" and likely won't be considered in the near future.
In the eight years he's been on the commission, he said, "nobody has come forward with a plan or an interest in doing that."
A city has until Aug. 31 to submit a proposal for a RAP tax and have it included on the ballot this year. West Bountiful Mayor Ken Romney, who's hoping to renew his city's recreation tax in November, said the decision to put it up for renewal was easy.
West Bountiful's RAP tax began in 2008 and has funded several parks and recreation projects, including added baseball diamonds at City Park, new trees for Prospector Trail and an extended driving range at Lakeside Golf Course. If residents vote in favor of the renewal, Romney said the city is also planning to fund new basketball and tennis courts and a playground.
"It's allowed us to provide amenities at the park and upgrade the park that there's no way we could do otherwise in our city," he said. "The budget just hadn't been there for parks and recreation [before the tax]."
Earmarks • But once a community decides to adopt a RAP tax, that portion of the general fund is tied up and can't be used for other projects. Billy Hesterman with the Utah Taxpayers Association takes issue with that. He believes this is "tying the hands of elected officials" who aren't able to funnel more money to public safety or other local issues, if the need arises.
While Hesterman agrees that parks and recreation amenities can be beneficial to a community, he thinks the projects should compete for funding instead of having an earmarked sales tax.
Clearfield and Farmington, also in Davis County, passed recreation taxes in 2014, but Koch said he's not sure when the collection date for those will start.
In Utah County, the tax is similarly structured. Four of the 21 cities American Fork, Lindon, Orem and Cedar Hills have passed recreation taxes, and three more Provo, Springville and Lehi are looking into it.
With so many cities electing to have their own RAP tax, there is "no need" for the county to pursue the measure, said Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves.
Provo vote • And that's perfectly fine for Provo, which will likely have citizens vote on whether or not the city should impose a recreation tax for the first time this year. The Provo City Council voted 6-1 to send the resolution to the county commission for review and will decide in August whether it will be included on ballots.
Corey Norman, Provo deputy mayor and city spokesperson, said the proposed tax will raise about $1.2 million each year to go toward park improvements and art programs. In an initial survey, he said about 75 percent of residents were in favor of the measure.
Norman points to nearby Orem as the example on which Provo's plan is based.
Orem started its first CARE (Cultural Arts and Recreation Enrichment) tax in 2005; residents later voted in 2013 to renew it for 10 more years Mayor Richard Brunst says that is a true testament to the program.
"We feel like it's a real community effort. It's just gone very, very well," he said.
The CARE tax, which raises about $1.8 million annually for the city, is split 50-50 between arts and recreation, with funds going to the SCERA Center for the Arts and Hale Center Theater, as well as athletic events and a new pool at the community center. Most cities and counties devote just 30 percent to recreation.
"It's raising money that's well spent," Brunst said. "It's a great way to keep the arts and recreation in our city vibrant and with full support."
He said it doesn't matter if the tax is countywide or led by individual cities; he feels either way residents gain a quality of life enriched by arts and culture.