Let’s rap about tax, RAP tax that is

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Residents of Washington County have been asked to consider a countywide tax in the upcoming election to help fund parks, arts and recreational opportunities for residents and tourists, stirring up questions about what a RAP tax is, and if there is a need.

Perhaps the real consideration for voters, as with any tax, is whether the need constitutes the call to tax; does the end justify the means? Washington County voters are not of one mind on the subject, as reflected in the pros and cons section of this report.

What is RAP tax - STGnewsRAP tax and Washington County

At an Aug. 5 Washington County Commission meeting, Proposition 3, the RAP tax initiative, was approved to be added to the Nov. 4 ballot as an opinion question. According to the minutes from that night’s meeting, the decision was made because “several municipalities within the county have expressed support” for the proposal.

The minutes reported that an estimated $2 million dollars in yearly revenue could be garnered to help fund recreational and cultural facilities and cultural organizations. Commissioner Alan Gardner said that roughly one-third of the money raised would come from tourists, rather than local taxpayers.

According to the RAP tax initiative, Resolution No. R-2014-1830, the tax imposed will be a sales tax of one-tenth of one percent – equivalent to one penny for every $10.

It went on to say that beneficiaries will include: publicly owned and operated athletic fields, parks, playgrounds, campgrounds, trails, swimming pools, gymnasiums and other recreational facilities; as well as, nonprofit organizations, institutions, county and municipal cultural councils who focus on the advancement and preservation of, “art, music, theater, dance, cultural arts, or natural history.”

If the initiative passes, cities and towns will have discretion in the distribution of funds allocated to the municipality according to an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between the county and cities. The agreement was established as a way to ensure fairness to residents who dwell within the unincorporated areas of Washington County, and also the residents who live in each city – no matter how large or how small the city may be.

Of the total funds collected, the county will receive 15 percent off of the top to be allocated towards cultural organizations countywide. The remaining 85 percent will be divided as follows: 67 percent (of the 85 percent) will go to the various communities based on the population of each city according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau’s report; and 33 percent (of the 85 percent) will go to each community based on point-of-sale purchases made within that city’s boundaries.

The RAP tax initiative also states that Washington County’s portion of the remaining 85 percent of funding will be divided based on the population of residents who live in the unincorporated areas of the county and point-of-sale purchases made within those unincorporated areas as well. Including the unincorporated areas of Washington County, there would be a total of 16 entities with whom the funds will be divided countywide.

Each of the 16 entities will be required to establish its own advisory board to guide city or town councils, or they can choose to use the one established by the county. The boards will advise the city or town councils and county commission on where the revenue should be placed every year.

Although the advising board is required for funds going to nonprofit art and cultural organizations, the council and county commission may choose to take into account, or forego the advisement of the board.

So far, County Administrator Dean Cox said, Washington County has received a signed acceptance of the Interlocal Agreement from all but two municipalities within county boundaries – Springdale and Virgin Town. Virgin Town Clerk Monica Bowcutt said that, at this time, the city has declined to participate in the Interlocal Agreement. As this report is published, Springdale officials have not responded to St. George News’ inquiries.

Pros and cons

At a Sept. 26 Friends of RAP event, “The Inauguration of RAP,” spokesperson David L. Clark said that at first it was difficult to convince him to get behind the effort, because he spent so many years in the Utah state government working to reduce taxes.

Clark said the tipping point for him was when he realized that the very definition of Southern Utah culture rests on the back of its magnificent landscapes, recreational opportunities and cultural endeavors. By taking the time to invest in the infrastructure of the very thing that draws the onslaught of thousands of tourists to Washington County every year, Clark said, residents would be helping to build and ensure a thriving economy for many generations yet to come.

At that meeting, Clark said that the estimated $2 million projection was actually turning out to be a little low, and the county would raise closer to $2.5 million within the first year.

That $2.5 million a year estimate has some Washington County residents riled up about the idea. St. George resident and retired Bryce Canyon Chief Ranger Thomas Henry said that, if passed, by the time the RAP tax sunsets in 2025, the county will have collected $25 million from the public.

“That’s money out of the pockets of every taxpayer that rings up at a cash register in this county over the next 10 years,” he said.

When the RAP tax passed in Salt Lake County in 1996, there was a deep need to fund bankrupting cultural and recreational facilities that were part of the economic engine in the county, some Southern Utah taxpayers say they don’t see the same need in Washington County today.

At an Oct. 21 public hearing with the Washington County Commission, Washington County resident Bill Ennis said he was having a hard time finding the “gaping holes” in the existing parks systems infrastructure that would warrant a tax of this nature. As an artist and a small business owner, he said he has a hard time finding that need in the community, even if RAP tax funding could potentially be beneficial to him.

At that same meeting, Henry said that he believed there was already adequate funding available to foster the arts within the City of St. George. He said the $4 million recently allocated by the city to renovate a movie theater for the arts was proof-evident that when the city wants to fund a project, they will find the means to do so without having to raise taxes.

While funding opportunities may be available for some projects in St. George – the economic hub of the county – Cox said that the county itself, and neighboring communities, simply do not have access to readily available funds for cultural, and recreational endeavors.

In fact, he said, with exception to the $500 annual grant awarded to the Washington County Arts Council, the unincorporated areas of Washington County have never had funding in their budget to nurture their public spaces.

Cox said that the county would not receive very much money from the RAP tax, because there are not a lot of people living in the unincorporated parts of the county, and there are even fewer businesses where a point-of-sale percentage can accrue funding.

“So the county itself isn’t going to get very much out of that,” he said. “But we have Gunlock, and Brookside, and Central and Veyo, so if there were a little money it would allow us to try to make them into some type of scenic parks, or something … there’s certainly a need out there.”

History of RAP Tax by St George NewsWashington County resident Larry Meyers of Winchester Hills said in the Proposition 3 Voter Information pamphlet that the role of government is not to provide their community with the things it wants, but to protect the rights of the people who reside there.

“While parks, sport facilities and artistic productions are all worthy causes, they can be provided through the private sector and through charitable enterprises,” he said.

Cox said that St. George fueled the steam in the engine that launched the prospect of a RAP tax in Washington County, and since it had such a great deal of support, county commissioners thought it would be wise to offer the option to the entire Washington County community.

He said that since St. George is where the majority of Washington County residents do their shopping, residents should have the opportunity to reap the benefit of a tax they would be helping to fund.

“St. George gave up a significant amount of money if this passes at the county level,” he said. “Because if St. George City kept it with St. George City alone, all of the distribution of the funds from RAP tax would stay inside the city.”

The opinion question for Proposition 3, the RAP tax initiative, is on the ballot for Nov. 4.

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Carin Miller

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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20 Comments

  • Duks October 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

    The city is already spending $3 million for renovating the old theatre for the artsy gang. Perhaps they should do fundraising to get private money, and not relying on Taxpayers to fund their hobby! vote NO to the RAP TAX.

  • Duks October 31, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Oh and one more thing, when can the local gun enthusiasts expect the city to rehab a building for a indoor shooting range,to support our hobby?

    • Visiting Anthropologist October 31, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Here’s an idea – get yourself together with other gun enthusiasts and make a case for an indoor shooting range. Get the legislature to authorize spending for one, if necessary. Wouldn’t this fall under Recreation in the RAP? Don’t just sit back and write snide or cranky notes about the “artsy gang” (Glad Norman Rockwell and Michelangelo are not around to hear you say that)

      Get off your duff and go get support what it is you want.

    • Koolaid October 31, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      STG RAP TAX BAMBOOZLES LDS CLAN. More smoke and mirrors by your local city government. Betcha the first thing in order with the tax increase are some sweet pay raises for select city employees.

  • Bender October 31, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    If Dean Cox, David Clark and their hard right leaning Republican colleagues want to continue to worship at the alter that reads “All Taxes Evil”, they should — in Bender’s humble opinion — man up and walk quickly away from any tax increases.
    .
    On the other hand, if they view the RAP tax as a sensible and fair burden to be placed on the taxpayer I expect to hear a more moderate and reasonable tone from them on other government programs… local, state and federal.

  • sleepy hallow October 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Why would I want to pay a tax to support something I have no interest in and will not use? I agree with the statement reported regarding the City of St. George finding the 4 million to renovate the old theater. If the City really wants something (like the carousel) they inexplicably find the funding for whatever they want without raising taxes. There seems to be an overabundance of cultural activities available now. Really, think about it. Tuachan, Hurricane theater, theater in the round, Snow Canyon park, all the lakes and parks that they already charge fees to get into. Think Sand Hollow, Quail Creek, Gunlock, etc. Commissioner Alan Gardener stares “1/3 of the money raised would come from tourists”, rather than local taxpayers. Okay now. So 2/3 of the money raised will still come from local taxpayers. And there are many taxpayers who do not use those facilities. So why should dissenting taxpayers have to pay those taxes? I don’t care if it’s only 1 cent per $10.00 spent…….IT IS STILL A DAMN TAX!!!

  • Richard October 31, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    VOTE NO!!! Look at the stuff that goes on in this county, it’s about benefiting a few and their cronies.

  • Notagain October 31, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I, at this point, will vote against this RAP tax. Although I’m in favor of fine tuning and increasing the life style of Southern Utah and drawing visitor to join us . I think the individual communities know how to ask their folks for charitable donations for a cause. (a tax deductible donation at that). If there are extra funds left over each year at the county/ city level? use a portion of those extra funds to buy something for the folks. (The Electric Theater/ carousel/ sidewalk art in St. George city are good examples.) A small community needs a welcome sign put up? Grab a shovel neighbor.
    I feel the RAP tax isn’t needed. Donations- YES. Another TAX- NO

  • Big Guy October 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Vote NO on RAP. Why on earth is government at any level spending tax dollars on the arts? Does anyone see the disconnect in Salt Lake City’s rationale for their RAP tax? “[There] was a deep need to fund bankrupting cultural and recreational facilities that were part of the economic engine in [Salt Lake] county.” If Salt Lake’s facilities were an “economic engine,” the facilities wouldn’t be going bankrupt. Same here: if facilities are wanted, the public will buy tickets or pay entrance fees. If not, they should go bankrupt. This whole thing sounds like the St. George City Council wants to dip into our pockets to fund the white elephant they are building at the Electric Theater. Tourists come here for the climate, golf and the scenery, not for small town theater.

  • Dolly October 31, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Southern Utah has so many supporters of the Arts & outdoor recreation activities. Let these philanthropists donate to the cause. They will not only get what they want, but they’ll have the tax write-offs, too. A RAP tax is still another tax, why should I be taxed on something (else) I don’t use or support? I’m already being taxed for schools and I have no children and I’ve never used Utah schools . (For that matter, my parents paid for private school for me.) I’m getting up in age…10 years may not seem like much to a Gen X’r, but it could possibly be a lifelong tax for me. Just say-in’.

  • Burton October 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Another No vote here! This is a county RAP tax vote and the VAST majority of the taxpayer funded recreational things this money is spent on is exclusively in St George only. NOT the county! And besides, like the rest of the comments its NEVER spent on anything I am interested in. Just more yuppie liberal garbage. Another art museum or paint festival. Cant wait. So much for our western heritage around here.

  • Zonkerb October 31, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Vote NO on RAP CRAP if some dork wants to see a play then let the DORK PAY for it……….. must tax dollars should be used to assemble a new St George police department anti dance swat team

  • Ken November 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Washington County is the largest county in population that has not passed this tax. Every county that has to reauthorize it (10 years), has passed it at an even higher percentage thN the first time. Some over 70%. What do they understand that the rest of you don’t. I bet none of you use pools, trails or sport parks.

    • Burton November 2, 2014 at 7:34 am

      I use a pool. Its in my yard, I bought it cause I wanted one. I use a “park”, its called my yard. Bought that cause I wanted it too. And my “trails” are made by animals, not tax dollars. Maybe society has just become too dependent on government for their treats?

      • so,ut November 2, 2014 at 8:46 am

        perfect, awesome comment, thanks.

      • Koolaid November 2, 2014 at 8:53 am

        Your socialist town of St George as much as it hates the government sure leans on the government for everything.

  • Bobo November 1, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    there will be 16 entities, which may select there own or use the county advisory board of how many members, and I am sure that will have to be paid for some how, rap tax funds or general funds of each entity. So if there is a county board and a board for their city are people paying for both boards?

  • Jon the excavator November 2, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Will all these new things to do be free ? Sounds like a tax hike for no good reason . More of my hard earned money stolen by the state for there own gain.

  • sleepy hallow November 3, 2014 at 10:37 am

    RAP tax rapes taxpayers. VOTE NO ON PROP 3!!!!!

  • PK November 3, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    WOW, Where to start:
    DUKS: I like to shoot too. I shoot a Glock 17. I think the gun range out by the fairgrounds should apply for some of the $$ for facility improvements.

    KOOLAID: I think you have been drinking the purple Koolaid. read the bill, how do you get pay raises out of it? “Socialist Town”?? obviously, you haven’t ever been in a REAL socialist community

    BURTON: FYI, the renovation of the SunBowl is on the list. That is about as “western heritage” as you get around here.

    SLEEPY HALLOW: Between “ITS STILL A …* TAX” and “RAP tax rapes taxpayers” I can see that you are a highly educated individual that will thoughtfully consider new information about a subject and not jump to conclusions with out having all the facts……………………………………..NOT!

    I have lived in Southern Utah my whole life, cant stand paying federal income tax because I abhor wasteful spending of my hard earned money. I am very conservative on both fiscal and social issues and guess what, I am voting FOR the RAP TAX. The money stays here in our community and must be spent on quality of life, which is why most of you moved here in the first place.

    OK, there it is…muster your anonymous internet courage and bring the pain…I am ready for it:)
    Ed. ellipsis: …*

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