RAP tax budget proposal passes 3-2 despite arts community protests

Cedar City Council Council Chambers, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – Cedar City Council voted Wednesday to pass the controversial Recreation Arts and Parks tax budget proposal that will allocate 10 percent of each year’s total funding to upkeep and maintenance of RAP tax eligible facilities, like the Heritage Center Theater and the Lake at the Hills complex.

The ordinance passed in a 3 to 2 vote with dissenting opinions coming from Councilmen Don Marchant and John Black, who concurred that the issue was not ready for a vote and warranted more discussion.

Councilman Paul Cozzens, who initiated the motion, said it was “way overdue.”

As the executive director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival who has recently undertaken a major construction project, R. Scott Phillips said he could sympathize with the need for maintaining facilities.

However, he asked that the Council consider a 60/40 split, in which 60 percent would go to parks and recreation and 40 percent would go to the arts, as opposed to the current allocation in which each group gets a one-third split of the fund.

“I think we recognize that there is a need to take a portion of funding to take care of what we’ve got,” Phillips said, reminding council that many arts groups who receive RAP funds turn the money right back over to the city by way of venue fees to facilitate their projects. “But I think we recognize that; what I would urge the council to do is to consider perhaps the division (of funds) so that we have a 60/40 split.”

The fear expressed by those in the arts community in Cedar City has stemmed from the fact that with parks and recreation so closely related, they already receive 2/3 of the yearly funding, leaving only 1/3 behind to divvy up between the multitude of applicants with qualifying arts projects.

Councilman Paul Cozzens tried to address these concerns by explaining that within the budget proposal currently on the table, $30,000 of the city’s donation to the Shakespeare Festival would be allowed to come from the Transient Room Tax – instead of taking the entire donation from the RAP tax this year.

Known as TRT, the tax is charged to tourists who lodge within Cedar City limits while on vacation to help fund more tourist attractions in the community.

With the TRT addition to the Shakespeare funding, it would free up extra money within the arts portion of the RAP tax monies, allowing the opportunity to fund additional arts projects.

The culminating result, Councilman Fred Rowley said, would be that even after the 10 percent maintenance and upkeep fees are taken from the RAP tax money, the arts portion would still wind up with $15,000 more than they had allocated to them in 2014.

Joanne Brattain, who presides as the arts chair on the committee that oversees RAP tax funding and makes recommendations to the council every year about how to allocate the funds, also urged City Council to accept the 10 percent proposal on the premise that a 60/40 split would be considered going forward.

Concerns were raised by Enoch Seegmiller, manager of the El Ray Inn Suites and the Stratford Court and a member of the Iron County Lodging Association. He said he worried the money that was being taken from the TRT tax to help fund would take away from money that should be going to the hotels who are anticipating access to the money for their own needs.

Mayor Maile Wilson explained that the TRT tax is meant to fund a variety of tourist attractions in Cedar City. Allocations are: 50 percent to event support, 40 percent to marketing and recruitment and 10 percent is placed in a reserve fund in case there is a really large event that takes place one year and is in need of funding support.

City Council voted to move forward with the RAP tax and TRT proposal as it was written without changing fund allocations to accommodate the 60/40 request because, based on the previous discussions, Cozzens said he did not see a need to revise funding divisions.

With the 10 percent portion of the total funding now able to be utilized towards upkeep and maintenance, the city plans to begin working on improving city-owned structures that are in need of upgrades.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.


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