To the editor:
Salt Lake County is in the convention center business. We are also in the business of providing fine arts facilities for our residents and visitors to enjoy. No other government entity in our state has been willing to assume these responsibilities, and while there are times when these responsibilities appear to us to be a burden, we are nonetheless determined to fulfill them to the best of our abilities.The Salt Palace Convention Center, like all convention centers, loses money for the operator but provides economic benefits to the community dozens of times the size of the operating loss. As commissioner, I am determined that we find ways to minimize this operating loss. I am in frequent contact with our facility manager, Spectacor, discussing means to accomplish this. Nonetheless, some operating loss is inevitable.
As commissioner, I made a commitment not to subsidize Salt Palace operations with property taxes; and with passage of a 1 percent restaurant tax, this commission will join in that commitment. This is not a perfect tax, but I believe it is the appropriate levy to make in these circumstances. There are already hotel and auto-rental taxes in place; a restaurant tax will allow visitors to our county to make a further contribution to the upkeep of the facilities we have provided to attract them.
It is true that our local residents will be paying this tax as well - but let's keep it in perspective: It is 3 cents on a $3 sandwich, 20 cents on a $20 lunch for two, $1 on a $100 dinner tab at an expensive restaurant. And these funds will go to support the cultural infrastructure which is critical to keeping our community vibrant: At least $1 million per year for Symphony Hall, Capitol Theatre and the Salt Lake Arts Center.
Further, I will propose to my fellow commissioners that once we have met our Salt Palace and fine arts facility commitments, that a certain percentage of funds collected beyond that amount be earmarked for cultural, recreational and tourist promotion in other parts of Salt Lake County, consistent with the intent of the original legislation.
Finally, I would ask the members of the restaurant industry and the public at large to join in support of our effort to provide a quality convention center and first rate arts facilities for the betterment of our entire community.
Jim Bradley, chairman
Salt Lake County Commission