Even the Republicans on the Salt Lake County Council were calling it a good tax.
The county’s Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) tax is up for renewal every 10 years, so county council members of both parties lined up behind Mayor Ben McAdams in singing its praises Tuesday when they formally agreed to put it on the November ballot.
“ZAP is one of those programs that directly affect people on a daily basis,” said Republican County Council Chairman Michael Jensen of the sales tax — a penny on every $10 spent — that provides funding for arts and cultural groups, Hogle Zoo and Tracy Aviary, and recreation facilities and trail systems.
“We wouldn’t have the arts community in the valley. We wouldn’t have the same recreational opportunities, wouldn’t have the ball fields and the open space,” he added. “Renewing this needs to be our number one priority as a county.”
McAdams was just as lavish in his assessment of the good that has come from the tax, which 60 percent of county voters agreed to impose in 1996. When the tax came up for renewal in 2004, it passed with 71 percent of the vote.
“ZAP truly is about us. It’s about our neighbors and our friends,” the Democratic mayor said. “The revenue goes directly back into the community to improve the small-town feel and make Salt Lake a great place for families and individuals to live and play. … ZAP is the underpinning of that.”
Over the years, McAdams noted, ZAP funding has gone to more than 160 arts and cultural organizations whose performances and events were attended by more than 7 million people. These groups also put on 20,000 educational events, have cumulative annual expenditures of $67 million and employ 2,000 people.
Funds also have gone into improving 13 parks and trail systems, he added, while 17 recreational centers were partially built with ZAP money.
Just recently, McAdams said he attended the opening of “The Draw” tunnel under 1300 East in Sugar House, the Asian Festival and the opening of the African Savanna at Hogle Zoo — all of which received a subsidy from ZAP.
Councilman Sam Granato quickly noted that a $2,500 ZAP grant to the new Millcreek Arts Council already has been put to good use. Three “Venture Out” programs drew sizable crowds to events in parks in the Democrat’s eastside district.
If voters give their approval in November, the ZAP tax’s expiration date will be extended from Dec. 31, 2016 to 2026.
This is the right process to accomplish a noble goal, said Steve DeBry, a GOP councilman from West Jordan.
“We need parks. We need open space. It boils down to the kind of village we want to live in,” he said. “But it’s right to put it on the ballot to see if the people want to tax themselves.”
The Salt Lake County Council will hold a public hearing July 15 on the proposed sale of 5.3 acres at 7350 S. 700 West in Midvale as surplus property. The land was bought to be the site of a new county health department building, but that location later was abandoned. The sale will be at the County Government Center, 2001 S. State.