Council postpones sales tax vote

KINGMAN ­ City Council decided Monday night to postpone a vote on raising the city sales tax until a public forum on the issue is heard.

Local car dealership owners, among others, stressed to council that the issue needed to be more publicized prior to a public hearing before an increase could be imposed.

Part of the city staff's recommendation as a result of a final report from Red Oak financial consultants and a citizens review panel is increasing the city sales tax from 2 to 2.5 percent.

"I feel an absolutely compelling need to do this," Council Member Dave French said, adding that he was caught by surprise with the item on the evening's agenda, "but I'm not in favor of doing it right now."

Kingman Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Liles told Council that though she didn't have a personal stand on the issue, she was surprised also by just hearing about it.

"I'd like to see us get the word out to our businesses," she said.

Council member Ray Lyons said that he thought the increase was a bad idea and that it would affect intermediate income residents.

"It's absolutely incumbent on this council to diversify our sources of revenue," Mayor Monica Gates said. "This half percent will be a tremendous boon to our city."

Rick Roberts, from Anderson Toyota in Kingman, said he was concerned about losing Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City customers who come to Kingman because of lower sales tax. They could go to Las Vegas instead, causing a net loss of millions of dollars.

"It could be a situation where we're tripping over dollars to pick up dimes," he said.

Martin Swanty of the Swanty dealerships echoed the concern, adding: "I think it's our responsibility to let the 25,000 that live in our community to know that we're raising their sales tax."

Swanty recommended a public hearing in addition to seeking other ways to inform the public, such as putting notices in water bills.

Swanty offered to pay for advertisements while council member Jim Baker asked him to solicit ideas from his customers on how the city will pay for infrastructure.

The three dealership representatives suggested pushing a property tax. Swanty's comment on the previous effort:

"You did a miserable job promoting it."

"If we institute a sales tax now, we can't come back to a property tax for awhile," Lyons said.

"It's not a pretty thing," Baker said. "Nobody wants to talk about taxes, but everybody wants to talk about services."

Joe Hart, owner of KGMN radio and Channel 36 said he would provide free editorial time to the city to publicize the issue.

"It needs to have more airing-out," said Council Member Tom Carter, who said he was concerned about the ability of the city to attract businesses such as Target or Costco that may decide to locate outside the city limits.

Vice Mayor Tom Spear said it would improve the quality of life within the city, mentioning Rattlesnake Wash as one of the other capital projects in the city's five-year plan that needs secured funding.

Council decided to schedule a hearing in the next couple of weeks before bringing the issue to vote in December.