ST. GEORGE – Last year on July 4, 2011, the City of St. George flipped the switch on its new carousel to the delight of children straddling golden bedazzled horses going round and round the merry-go-round in the Town Square.
Few things in St. George have triggered as much sideline cheers and jeers in recent years as the carousel has – whether for enjoying it as an added feature to the Town Square or for disapproval of the expenditure or otherwise. St. George News asked the city’s assistant to the city manager, Marc Mortensen, about its profitability in year one.
In its first year, Mortensen estimated the carousel has seen 150,000 rides. He said it has generated $76,000 in income and incurred operating and maintenance costs of $50,000, thereby netting an operating profit of $26,000.
“We didn’t take out a loan (to buy the carousel),” Mortensen said. “It was paid through the downtown (Redevelopment Agency) budget – the money had to have been spent inside the town square.”
The RDA for the downtown area was created in the 1980s and has been extended from its original term to 2015.
Although debt service continues to be paid for the Town Square, according to the City Manager’s recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2012-13 (approved at the June 21 City Council meeting), Mortensen said there is no debt service on the carousel which was purchased with RDA funds.
To provide simple understanding of the RDA, the City’s website states that existing RDAs in the State of Utah allow cities to use property tax from a specific geographical area and spend it on improvements within the same area. These monies are earmarked to improve blighted areas through capital expenditures and cannot be used for ongoing maintenance, personnel or to buy equipment. Mortensen said that agencies which would otherwise benefit from that portion of property taxes allocated to the RDA, the Washington County School District and Washington County being two of the larger would-be beneficiaries for example, approve the purchases of improvements.
Based on its first year of service, the carousel is estimated to net an average of $25-30,000 annually. Mortensen said the City Council has debated what to do with that net profit. He said discussions have leaned towards funding an endowment for the arts in the downtown area which might purchase things like additional bronzes for the specified redevelopment area.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.