Cache County RAPZ and restaurant tax funding still up in the air

Plans to allocate Cache County RAPZ and restaurant tax funds are still a work in progress due to uncertainties resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

CACHE COUNTY – The only thing certain about the distribution of funds from Cache County’s RAPZ and restaurant taxes to local groups and events is that nothing is certain this year.

That was the message delivered by County Executive Craig Buttars as he announced an initial list of recommended allocations of those tax funds to the members of the Cache County Council on May 26.

Buttars explained that the recommendations included some funding requests that had been trimmed as a result of event cancellations due to the coronavirus, but others had not.

For example, the draft document still listed a funding award of $40,000 for the Cache Valley Cruise-In. That three-day car show and concert event has now been reduced to a Main Street parade, but Council Member David L. Erickson said that decision was made too recently for the first draft RAPZ and restaurant tax disbursement list to be updated.

“There are so many changes happening,” Erickson added, “that we may have to review and revise this list of recommendations three or four times this summer.”

Cache County has collected a 1 percent sales tax on prepared food since 1992 to fund support for tourism, recreation and the cultural arts. The RAPZ (Recreation, Arts, Parks and Zoos) tax  — which is a tenth of 1 percent sales tax  — was added in 2002 to support capital projects and the operating expenses of local recreational venues.

Buttars stressed that the uncertainty caused by the cancellation of so many traditional local events is compounded by the question of how badly the coronavirus business shut-down will hurt next year’s tax revenues.

Council Chairman Karl B. Ward noted that latter concern motivated the county’s RAPZ and restaurant tax subcommittee members to take a conservative approach to awarding funds this year.

“We’re anticipating about $3.4 million in tax revenues this year,” Ward explained. “But we’ve only recommended distribution of about $2.3 million … That’s being done in anticipation that next year’s tax revenues will take quite a dip. We didn’t want to distribute all our funds this year — as we’ve done in the past — to maintain some reserve funds for next year.”

Some of the usual allocations that were eliminated to maintain those reserve funds included $150,000 to the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre for marketing and promotion expenses outside of Cache Valley; $45,000 for Logan’s annual Freedom Fire celebration on Independence Day; and $30,000 to Utah State University to promote their Summer Citizens Program. All of those programs were cancelled for the summer of 2020.

“But we know that there are some of our local venues that still have financial liabilities despite the coronavirus shut-down,” Ward emphasized. “It’s important that we still provide some support to them so that they can survive this pandemic.”

The UFOMT tops the list of local entities needing funds to sustain ongoing programs with a $175,000 distribution for its educational outreach efforts.

Council member Barbara Y. Tidwell said that RAPZ and restaurant tax distributions may also need to be revised over the summer if some local groups are able to reschedule their events once the coronavirus social restrictions are relaxed.

After some additional discussion, council members Gordon A. Zilles and Jon White suggested that consideration of the draft distribution list be tabled until the council members have had adequate time to fully review its recommendations.

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