Mayor says Kingman economy on the upswing

City's sales tax revenues increasing, mayor says

BUTCH MERIWETHER/Courtesy<br><br>
Kingman Mayor John Salem

BUTCH MERIWETHER/Courtesy<br><br> Kingman Mayor John Salem

City revenues are up and the economy may be improving, according to comments made by Kingman Mayor John Salem at a Kingman Republican Forum candidate meet and greet Wednesday night.

Salem, who is seeking a third two-year term, answered a series of questions along with two other candidates for mayor and four candidates for City Council. Each candidate was asked the same seven questions and given the same amount of time, one to two minutes, to answer the questions.

When asked if he would increase or decrease taxes or institute a property tax, Salem said didn't think any of it was necessary. The city's sales tax revenues have been increasing.

He also didn't see the need for any layoffs or cutbacks in services with the increase in revenues coming in.

However, the city needs to encourage new businesses to move here, he said. He saw the city's lack of a property tax, as well as its convenient location and good labor pool, as assets that would entice businesses to move here.

The city should look at getting an outside firm to market the city to tourists, once there was enough funding, Salem said.

He also said it was unfortunate that the state keeps raiding HURF funds, because it directly affects the citizens.

The city is way behind on its road repairs because of the HURF sweeps, Salem said. But with the help of the bar and restaurant tax it should be back on track soon, barring any more sweeps from the state.

Bill Goodale, who is also running for mayor, said the city needed someone in Phoenix to constantly hammer the Legislature about how sweeps to programs such as HURF affect cities and their residents.

Goodale said the city needs to develop a better economic base, repurpose some of its employees and cut back on government. He would postpone asking voters for a property tax as long as possible.

He said the city needs to determine the proper level of staffing, which could mean layoffs, as well as put away some funds to protect the city from any further cuts from the state and grow the economy.

The city should attract manufacturing and warehouse business first and then go after service industries, Goodale said. Doing so would get residents into jobs that don't need the local economy to survive and create more demand for service industries.

A tax increase or a property tax was not in the cards now, said Edward Jones, another mayoral candidate and a veteran of the U.S. Army. There were too many people and seniors who were having a tough time in the economy to raise taxes, he said.

He suggested a base salary for staff with a bonus incentive package. The city shouldn't reduce services and employees of the fire and police department should be exempt from layoffs.

Salem didn't like the idea of exempting anyone from layoffs. Lay-offs, if necessary, needed to be fair, he said.

Jones didn't think the city needed to make too many improvements to get businesses to move to the area or get tourists to stop.

The city sells itself, he said. It just needs to get the word out about what services it can offer.

Council candidates also got a chance to answer some of the same questions.

Neither Councilwoman Robin Gordon nor Councilwoman Carol Young were keen on the idea of increasing taxes or instituting a property tax.

Gordon said she would only support a property tax if the money went directly the police and fire departments. She warned that if revenues don't continue to increase, the city might have to look at additional cuts.

Young said it's the wrong time to raise taxes. The city has cut as much as it can without losing services and now it needs to look at what it can do to bring in new businesses.

She also pointed out that a property tax would have to be approved by voters.

Young would prefer further salary reductions instead of laying off employees. The best plan would be to increase the city's economic base, she said.

Both Gordon and Young voted for the increase in the bed tax. They wanted to use the money for economic development, but Council voted to use the money for capital improvements, such as the 911-call center.

The two councilwomen also voted against the 2 percent increase in the Bar and Restaurant Tax, because it would hurt small business owners, they said. Council approved the tax increase and the money is being used to repair roads.

"It's a two-edged sword," Council candidate Larry Carver said about increasing or decreasing taxes. "If we don't have the money coming in we have to cut somewhere."

No one wants to raise taxes, he said, but there may be a point much further down the road where the city might have to in order to provide the necessary services to meet the community's needs.

Carver said he would have to learn the city's budget process before he could definitively answer the question.

Council candidate Mark Wimpee didn't support increasing taxes. He also didn't support lay-offs or reductions in salaries.

"The people have it hard enough as it is right now. There are other ways to come up with the funds to support the community's needs," Wimpee said. And that may include reducing some services.

The city also needs a pro-active road repair plan so when it gets the funds it knows which ones to repair first, he said.

All of the Council candidates agreed that the city needed to do more to attract new businesses and tourists.

Young and Gordon suggested reinstating the Economic Development Department, once the city had the funds to do so, and working with the merchants to spruce up the downtown area to draw more tourists.

Carver suggested a sports or entertainment venue that would encourage tourists to stay a few days and promoting its current events such as the River Run and Little League All-Stars games to the outside world.

Wimpee, who is a member of the Kingsmen, said he would like to see a junior rodeo come to town, as well as promote the other regular events.

The annexation of additional land into the city was necessary to future growth but would require the approval of the people. It was something to look at in the future, the candidates said.