FARMINGTON — There's enough money in Davis County's tourism fund to donate $1 million toward the construction of the future South Davis Performing Arts Center.

But Davis County commissioners don't plan on making a donation anytime soon.

Instead, they're opting to wait for results from an analysis of the county's tourism fund in light of economic conditions, an analysis they expect to receive in September.

During a June 24 commission meeting, Centerville Mayor Ron Russell asked for county participation in the performing arts center's construction, which will happen thanks to a RAP tax Centerville and Bountiful residents voted in November's election to impose.

The RAP (recreation, arts and parks) tax is a 0.1-cent sales tax for eight years. During the life of the tax, the two cities will generate about $10 million, which is short of the $15 million estimated for construction of the center.

The center's designs include a 500-seat main theater, black-box theater and rehearsal and recital rooms.

Tuesday, commissioners learned that the county's tourism fund, which receives revenue from taxes imposed on hotel rooms, restaurants and car rentals in Davis County, could shoulder up to a $1 million donation.

Any more than that, county director of community and economic development Wilf Sommerkorn said, would place "undue stress on the tourism fund."

Money from the tourism fund is currently paying off bonds for the Davis Conference Center and its recently opened expansion and is running the Davis Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Davis County Events Center.

About $1.8 million is left as fund reserves and could be needed if the economy worsens and not enough tax revenue comes in to pay the county's debts on the conference center, said Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings.

Rawlings added that he prefers to keep at least $1 million as reserves.

Commissioner Alan Hansen said he would not support dipping into the fund's reserves in light of current economic conditions.

Russell said he doesn't want commissioners to have to dip into reserves either.

Commissioners need to feel comfortable about their level of participation, he said, adding that he hopes they would appropriate tourism money in a future budget cycle to make room for the performing arts center.

The performing arts center isn't expected to be under contract for construction until late 2009 or early 2010.

Without county participation in the construction, the center will likely have to be scaled back with the potential to add amenities at a later time, Russell said Tuesday.

Russell said theater backers have met with various private foundations in Utah to secure private funding in exchange for naming rights, but foundations generally want to see that certain projects have broad community support. A donation from the county could be seen as that support.

He said he's optimistic that a private foundation will eventually come through for the center.

Jeff Novak, a Bountiful musician, urged that theater backers find more private funding.

Ron Mortensen, co-founder of CitizensForTaxFairness.org, said he would like to see the business plan for the theater so residents know what its revenue projections are, how many shows could play there, whether no-bid contracts will be sought and whether the center could bring new tourism to Davis County or just shuffle the tourism that already happens.


E-mail: [email protected]