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Will Salt Lake taxpayers keep funding zoo, arts and parks?

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 5 2015 6:45 a.m. MDT

Lionesses Nabu, left, and Seyla came from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. They were born in November 2012. ( (Heather L. Tuttle, Deseret News)) Lionesses Nabu, left, and Seyla came from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. They were born in November 2012. ( (Heather L. Tuttle, Deseret News))

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed tax will be back on the ballot in November, as Salt Lake County residents will have a chance to vote to renew the Zoo, Arts and Parks Program.

The ZAP tax helps fund arts, culture, and recreation in the county, including Hogle Zoo, The Days of '47, The Leonardo, The Living Planet Aquarium, Ballet West, and the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera.

There are around 200 organizations and facilities that receive funding through the ZAP program.

"Many of these organizations would not exist without ZAP. And if they were able to get by, it would not be at the same level of quality that we enjoy today," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said Tuesday as the County Council voted to include the tax renewal on the ballot.

Harris Simmons, chairman for the ZAP renewal, said the program has been very popular among residents and expects it to have a lot of support in November.

"The tax is worth it for that stuff," said Lisa Sims, a Salt Lake County resident. "We need it. Our kids need that."

Sims said she and her children have attended attractions funded by the ZAP tax, including Ballet West, which she said was "fantastic." Recently, Sims took her two young daughters to visit Hogle Zoo, she said.

"I do think that the zoo has done some really nice upgrades," Sims said, "because I used to be really frightened of that zoo, honestly."

The zoo's new African Savannah exhibit received funds from the ZAP tax, McAdams said.

Salt Lake County officials estimate that 3.8 million people in the county receive free admission to an arts or cultural event funded by ZAP, and more than 7.3 million take part in a ZAP organization activity.

ZAP funds are generated through sales tax. For every $10 spent, 1 cent goes to providing grants for more than 160 arts and cultural organizations and 30-plus parks and recreational facilities.

Simmons said that penny per $10 adds up to about $15 million each year.

"It's designed to be very affordable for almost everybody but to have very broad impact," he said.

McAdams said the funds help make Salt Lake County a great place to live.

"The people of the Salt Lake Valley and really throughout the state know and love these amenities that we have here," he said. "It's what makes Salt Lake County a place where people want to raise a family and want to live their lives."

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com

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