Features and Occasionals, Shall We Dance

Shall We Dance? Why You Should Vote ‘YES’ for the ZAP Tax

By Amy Brunvand

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 4! It’s particularly important because mid-term elections—the kind without any presidential candidates and all the attendant hoopla—tend to favor more radically partisan candidates. Essentially, the fanatics all turn out to vote, and the moderate voters all stay home. Some great candidates this year are running for local, state and federal offices. They really need you to vote for them. Also on this year’s ballot: Vote to renew ZAP funding.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with dancing which is, after all, the subject of this column. Well, in Salt Lake County, voters will see this on their ballots:

County Proposal #1


Vote yes. This is a small sales tax that has a very big impact on the cultural landscape of Salt Lake. For people who are bad with numbers, it means you contribute one penny for every $10 you spend in Salt Lake County. All those pennies add up to over $10 million per year to help pay for the dance, theatre, music, museums, zoos and recreation. This tax has to be renewed every 10 years, and this year it’s up for re-election.

Visit the Salt Lake county website yourself to take a look at the amazing list of organizations that receive ZAP funding. It’s impressive to realize just how much art is going on in our community. Glancing through the list I counted no fewer than 45 ZAP-funded organizations that I did something with just during the past year. That’s a huge impact on my quality of life. How many such organ­izations can you find on the list?

ZAP supports community events like the EVE downtown New Year’s celebration, Craft Lake City, and Utah Arts Festival; It helps pay for trails like the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Parley’s Trail, and Jordan River Trail; It supports places where I send my kid to summer day camp like Bad Dog Arts, Spy Hop and Natural History Museum of Utah; it supports plays performed by companies like Salt Lake Acting Com­pany, Plan-B Theatre and Pygmalion; it supports movies, visual arts, swimming pools, gardens and dance—I told you that this election is important for dance.

In fact, ZAP has supported many of the dance companies that I’ve written about here in CATALYST including (in alphabetical order):

Another Language Performing Arts, Ashley Anderson Dance, Ballet West, Brolly Arts, Dance Theater Coalition, Mountain West Ballet, Odyssey Dance Theatre, Repertory Dance Theatre, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, SB Dance, Samba Fogo, Tanner Dance, Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance, City Art and Wasatch Contras. Wow! That’s a good list.zap

Back when it was first on the ballot in 1996, the ZAP Tax was somewhat reluctantly approved by 57.8% of voters. So who opposed ZAP? The Utah Taxpayers Association for one, which called it a “boutique tax” because apparently they think art is only for rich people (even though ZAP funds help sponsor events that are free to the public). And the moneygrubbers who gripe that if the arts can’t make a profit, they shouldn’t even exist. And the curmudgeons who fear art that might “violate community standards.” Oh, and Governor Gary Herbert who opposed a similar tax back when he was a Utah County Commissioner because he thought there were greater needs than arts and parks.

But for the most part ZAP has become an oxymoron—a popular tax. In 2004. It was renewed with 71.3% of the vote.

Over the years ZAP has gained fans because the funds are well managed and the County has done a good job of “branding” to make sure people know when an event has been sponsored with ZAP money. Organizations that receive ZAP funds are required to display the ZAP logo, and the guidelines ex­plain, “While we don’t need to tell you how important art, culture and recreation are, we do need your help in telling others. ZAP grants are different from foundations or private donors because ZAP funds are public tax dollars approved by the voters of Salt Lake County. That’s why as part of your contract we require you, our cultural partner, to spread the word to your constituents.”

Besides boosting quality of life for Salt Lake County residents, arts events are a big draw for visitors. Salt Lake County estimates that over 7.3 million people annually attend events supported by ZAP Tax money. Consider that the entire population of Salt Lake County is just over 1 million, and you’ll realize that some people went to more than one ZAP supported events, and some people came from outside Salt Lake County to enjoy the kind of events that make Salt Lake the cultural heart and soul of Utah.

So that was a lot of numbers for a dance article! Sorry about that, but the sad fact is, all this wonderful stuff costs money, so once in a while we just need to talk about money.

Vote for County Proposal #1 to renew the ZAP tax and for the next 10 years you can congratulate yourself for your contribution whenever you see the ZAP logo.

Amy Brunvand is a librarian at the University of Utah and a dance enthusiast.Ballet West: balletwest.org

Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks: slco.org/zap/; RenewZap.com; Utah Elections: elections.utah.gov

This article was originally published on September 27, 2014.