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My view: The CARE tax is worth renewing

By Debora Escalante

By Randy Park

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Oct. 25 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The lobby in the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

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Orem voters face a decision on Nov. 5: Should the cultural arts and recreation enrichment tax be renewed for another 10 years? The CARE tax is a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax that was approved by voters in November 2005 and has yielded nearly $13 million over the past eight years for the cultural arts and recreation.

We believe CARE is worth renewing. Here’s why:

First, CARE brings economic benefits to Orem. A national survey of arts patrons found that the average arts patron from outside a community spends approximately $26 in addition to the cost of a ticket. That means the beneficiaries of arts events include retail businesses such as gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.

That certainly applies to Orem. Sixty percent of SCERA Theatre patrons and 78 percent of those attending performances at Hale Center Theater Orem come from outside Orem. That is a lot of people visiting and spending money while they are in town.

The same can be said of recreation events. When parents from outside Orem come to watch a ballgame their child is playing on an Orem field, they are likely to fill up their car with gas, stop at a fast-food restaurant or even drop by a grocery store.

Orem not only attracts arts patrons but also residents from outside Orem to come to State Street or University Parkway retail stores to shop. That means they are paying the CARE tax and contributing to cultural arts and recreation programs every time they shop in Orem. A large part of the cost of the CARE tax is being paid by non-Orem residents, but the benefits come to Orem residents.

Secondly, the CARE tax is a narrowly focused tax that generates revenue that stays within Orem, and even then only for specific purposes. All the money for the CARE tax must be used for Orem cultural arts and recreation programs and facilities. Thanks to CARE, the SCERA and Hale have been able to initiate youth education programs that aid thousands of children in gaining skills in music, dance and theater; the Orem Fitness Center is being remodeled to expand the swimming pool, remodel the locker rooms and modernize the facilities; and other recreation facilities have benefited such as new awnings for ball fields and the planned construction of a new dog park.

Thirdly, the CARE program has stimulated cultural arts. New arts programs have been created such as the Orem Chorale, the Orem Children’s Chorale, the Resonance Story Theatre, the Colonial Heritage Festival and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Without the impetus provided by CARE, it is unlikely these programs would exist.

Fourth, and most importantly, CARE helps kids. It benefits the thousands of Orem youth who play soccer, baseball or football; swim in the Orem pools; perform in a Hale or SCERA arts performance; enroll in a youth arts education class; or even just attend a cultural arts performance for young people. While these youth are engaged in these wholesome activities, they are not just hanging around the mall, milling about the streets or vegetating in front of a computer or television screen.

The arts and recreation enhance and enrich life in Orem. CARE helps make that possible. Orem voters, please vote yes on CARE to continue the benefits of it for 10 more years and thousands of children to come.

Debora Escalante is a member of the Orem Arts Council and secretary of Citizens for CARE. Randy Park is a member of the Orem Recreation Advisory Commission and treasurer of Citizens for CARE.

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