CACHE COUNTY – After lengthy discussion, the members of the Cache County Council have amended their grant awards from RAPZ and restaurant tax revenues to benefit the Summer Citizens Program and the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre.
Council member Paul R. Borup called the move to provide additional funding for marketing efforts by those programs “an investment” that was needed to help ensure Cache County’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in the summer of 2021.
That view was supported by Jamie Andrus, president of the Cache Chamber of Commerce, and Julie Hollist Terrill of the Cache Visitors Bureau. Both women argued that the Summer Citizens Program and the UFOMT were vital to Cache Valley’s ability to attract summer tourists whose spending supports the local hospitality, restaurant and performing arts communities.
Linda D’Addabbo, the coordinator of the Summer Citizens Program, told council members that the last formal economic impact analysis of her program was conducted back in 2008. At that time, local spending by just 217 participants had an economic impact of more than $1.3 million. With more than 800 participants nowadays, D’Addabbo estimated that the economic impact of the annual influx of senior citizen tourists has probably tripled.
UFOMT impresario Michael Ballam also spoke at the July 14 council meeting, saying that his program’s 2021 season can play an integral part of Cache Valley’s economic recovery from the ongoing pandemic.
According to analysis by the Utah Cultural Alliance, based on economic data collected by Americans for the Arts in 2015 and 2016, the next UFOMT season has the potential to boost Cache County’s local economy by nearly $14 million in direct expenditures.
The theater program is also expected to support about 330 local jobs throughout the community with combined household incomes of nearly $6.5 million.
That increased economic activity is projected to generate nearly $950,000 in local tax revenue and about $650,000 in state tax funds.
State officials estimate that nearly 130,000 tourists visit Cache Valley annually, with about 40 percent attracted by local cultural events, including the UFOMT’s regular season.
Incidental spending by those tourists for meals, souvenirs, transportation and lodging average about $88 per person for a total of more than $11 million.
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.
Funding for non-local marketing by the Summer Citizens Program and UFOMT is normally provided by Cache County using revenue from its RAPZ and restaurant taxes. The Summer Citizens Program originally requested $30,000 for that purpose, while UFOMT requested $150,000. The council members initially denied both those requests because those program’s 2020 activities had been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We were anticipating about $3.4 million in tax revenues this year,” Chairman Karl Ward explained at a council meeting in late May. “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.”
But Andrus and Hollist Terrill emphasized that tax revenues from tourism will be non-existent in 2021 unless the marketing efforts by the Summer Citizens Program and UFOMT are adequately funded.
In response to that plea, the council members approved a motion by Jon White to provide $15,000 to the Summer Citizens Program. One-third of that amount was made possible because Richie Call, the artistic director of the Lyric Repertory Company, volunteered to surrender a $5,000 grant that had previously been approved for his program.
As the discussion continued, County Executive Craig Buttars suggested that UFOMT may be eligible for funding from the federal CARES Act that is being made available to Cache County to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.
While Buttars pursues that option, the county council members approved an interim award of $60,000 for UFOMT marketing efforts.