Philharmonic requests city funds through unorthodox comment period
The Draper Philharmonic and Choral Society sings during the public hearing portion of the city council meeting. Normally, such displays are not allowed in city council meetings. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)
The Draper Philharmonic and Choral Society (DPACS) requested taxpayer funds to purchase larger instruments, and made their request in an unorthodox way. During the March 21 Draper City Council meeting, part of the choir showed up to sing during the public hearing portion of the agenda.
Led by Sherri Jensen, the choir got up to sing after Jensen made her own comments. She and the choir were then stopped by Mayor Troy Walker, who explained these types of displays were not allowed by the council’s bylaws. The council then voted unanimously to suspend the rules in order to allow the choir to sing. The group of around 40 singers sang a short piece before continuing the public hearing.
The DPACS is requesting $35,000 of taxpayer funding in order to purchase larger musical instruments such as timpani, chimes and gongs. These instruments are usually not owned by musicians since they are large and cumbersome.
City Manager David Dobbins explained to the city council that state law requires a city to do a number of things before it spends any taxpayer funds on a private entity. The first step is to do an analysis to see if the request meets state law.
“One is to show that the expenditure of taxpayer funds results in a benefit to the taxpayer. The city can’t just give money to a private entity unless the taxpayer receives some kind of benefit,” Dobbins said. “Typically, the threshold is, what is the monetary return on the taxpayer? So if you spend $35,000, what is the taxpayer going to get in return?”
Dobbins said the analysis, which was done by the city’s financial advisors, found it would take the city 20 years to recoup the $35,000.
“From a monetary standpoint, it doesn’t meet the state standards of monetary benefit,” Dobbins said. “If they were to sell tickets and we got sales tax off of that and people who attended these events and then shop in Draper, how long would it take for the city to recoup its money?”
However, Dobbins said the state does allow a city to make appropriations that are nonmonetary in return so long as there is a substantial benefit to the city.
“In this situation, is there a benefit to having this in the community? Yes, there is a benefit,” Dobbins said. “It’s nonmonetary. It adds to the overall health of the community.”
Dobbins believes the analysis allows the council to move forward in the process, if they choose to. The next step required by state law is to hold a public hearing where residents and taxpayers could address whether the request is a prudent use of taxpayer money. No action is required by the council, just a decision whether to move forward.
“If you choose to move forward, we would then open up the budget and then allocate the funding for this and then we’d have to enter into an agreement with the organization where we would stipulate the requirements of the funding,” Dobbins said. “For example, if they’re buying materials or supplies, what happens if they go out of business? What happens to the items that the city purchased? I would make the argument that they’d be returned to the city or something along those lines. Those are issues that will come later.”
Before the choir sang, choir member Tricia Swanson told the council she had been excited to have a choir that is based in the south side of Salt Lake County.
“Sherri emailed me at the beginning of this year and told me what she was going to do and how she wanted to me be an assistant and the vocal coach of the choir. I immediately jumped on it and said yes,” Swanson said. “I’m excited about this and I hope that we can have your support and go forward and you will love this choir and the philharmonic and it will be a wonderful asset to our city.”
Jensen also addressed the council before the choir sang.
“I have seen this in my mind, a choir/philharmonic doing amazing things for this city and bringing beautiful concerts to help uplift to a healthier lifestyle and have something for people to come and see and experience,” Jensen said. “My dream is to build something that will last for the rest of time.”
Choir member Tamra Pollard said she has lived in Draper for the past 30 years and has enjoyed seeing the city improve throughout the years. However, she believes the city is lacking music.
“Music, I believe with all my heart, is for everyone, whether you’re in the audience or you’re on stage performing,” Pollard said. “From the smallest of children to the oldest of our seniors, music is all-inclusive and speaks to our hearts.”