In a special meeting on Aug. 15, the Price council voted to hire a consulting firm to explore the feasibility of implementing a zoo, arts and parks tax within the boundaries of the city.
Lewis, Young, Robertson and Burningham Inc. specializes in helping cities find financing solutions for various kinds of situations.
In the case of Price, the officials are looking at a deficit in operating some of the citys recreational venues and a ZAP tax may be the solution to resolving some of the problems.
The tax also could be used to increase the types of venues available.
A ZAP tax would have to go through a number of steps prior to approval.
The special council session was scheduled because, despite the fact that the city started talking about the possibility last spring, the officials had not made a decision on the matter.
One of the steps to receive approval is to get the county commissioners to approve the idea and get it placed on the ballot for Novembers election, so taxpayers can vote on the proposal.
Time constraints between now and the next election precipitated the special council meeting.
As we looked at it, we have to send a formal request to the county and that has to be to them by Aug. 24, said Pat Larsen, the citys finance director. Then the county has 60 days to decide whether they will support it or not. If they do, then we have a tight time period to get it on the ballot.
The commissions approval is needed because the county collects and administers local taxes. By state statute, cities cannot levy and collect taxes.
After the introduction of the issue by Larsen, the council debated about whether to push the ZAP tax proposal for the 2006 election or wait and place the matter on the ballot next year.
I think it would be better to go for it now, said Councilmember Kathy Smith. We need to get this to the county and get on the commissioners regular meeting agenda so we can answer questions about why we want to do this.
But Councilmember Jeane McEvoy was concerned about the time restraint and how it could hurt the concept if things were not done in a methodical manner.
It would be such a rushed schedule, stated McEvoy. I am concerned that we cant get the information about what we are doing out fast enough and people will get alarmed.
Some councilmembers were also concerned about the fee the firm is charging and what would happen if the county did not approve the idea. The firm proposed to charge the city $8,417.50 for the services.
I think there are some steps in the proposal that only charge for certain levels of progress, said Councilman Richard Tatton. It is graduated.
Mayor Joe Piccolo pointed out that the council should look at both election options for presenting the ZAP tax to the citizens of the city.
The point is that, if you wait until next year, you will lose the money you could have collected in that time, noted Larsen.
The council also discussed the specific uses for the money in the event the ZAP tax proposal was approved by voters.
The money that is generated needs to be set for specific things, said the mayor. We need to tell the citizens what it will be used for so they understand it. If we approve to go ahead this year, we need to go out and inform them of what we are going to use these funds for. That will strengthen the reasons for them to vote for it.
Being a ZAP tax, the money would have to go to recreation venues in the city. As the council discussed the issue the two biggest needs were operating the swimming pool and keeping the parks in tip top shape.
One councilmember also suggested that some of the money could be used to support the proposed arts council as well.
A ZAP tax as presented would raise sales tax in the city by one-tenth of 1 percent. Estimates show that the tax could raise up to $200,000 per year for the citys coffers. The sales tax rate would rise from 6.25 percent to 6.35 percent.
After additional discussion, the council voted proceed with the proposal for the current year.
Larsen will send a letter to the county requesting the approval and the council will get on the county commission agenda to talk with the commission about the proposal.
The council also heard from McEvoy concerning the Dino-Mine Playground project. She told the officials that the committee has been able to raise almost all the money to start construction next month and that excavation for the park will begin within the next week.
We would like to invite anyone who wants to come to the ground breaking on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. she told the council.
The new playground will be built in the Terrace Hills Park on 700 North and 1100 East in Price.