Mayoral, Council candidates address tax increase

Mayoral and write-in Council candidates discussed the 1 percent sales tax increase at a candidate forum held Thursday at Desert Diamond Distillery. Councilmember Stuart Yocum addresses the forum. Yocum is running as a write-in candidate. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

Mayoral and write-in Council candidates discussed the 1 percent sales tax increase at a candidate forum held Thursday at Desert Diamond Distillery. Councilmember Stuart Yocum addresses the forum. Yocum is running as a write-in candidate. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

KINGMAN – The 1 percent Transaction Privilege Tax increase and the consequences of losing that additional revenue should the Kingman Citizens for Responsible Taxation initiative pass in November’s general election were the hot ticket items when mayoral and Council candidates gathered to introduce themselves and their platforms to voters Thursday night.

Voters and candidates attended a public forum at Desert Diamond Distillery to ask and answer questions about the tax increase and its relation to the I-11 East Kingman Connection Project, and the City’s overall plan and budget for the future. Mayoral candidate Vice Mayor Jen Miles, and write-in Council candidates Deana Nelson, Scott Holtry and Councilman Stuart Yocum were present. Other candidates were invited but could not attend due to prior obligations.

Miles described herself and her platform as “pro-growth,” adding that her voting record in support of the TPT increase is reflective of that mentality. She said the Rancho Santa Fe Parkway traffic interchange is vital for the growth of the airport and industrial park, and that it cannot be put off any longer.

Write-in candidate and Senior Planner for Mohave County Scott Holtry said he moved to Kingman three years ago, loves it, and that could see himself retiring here. He noted that the interchange projects would be a priority for him should he sit on Council, as would parks and infrastructure.

Deana Nelson, write-in candidate and small business owner, has resided in Kingman for 15 years and said she is running for a seat because she is frustrated with “a few things as far as the current Council is going right now.”

“Ladies and gentleman, I would really love to tell you what the priorities will be for the 1.5 (percent) that’s sitting out there, but there’s a really good chance we’re going to lose it in November and it’s not going to matter,” Nelson said. “That’s actually due to five councilmembers right now who voted it in.”

Write-in candidate Yocum told those in attendance that he would advocate for interchange project progress should he be elected. He doesn’t believe the initiative will pass because he thinks citizens will vote for progress and to build the interchanges.

“I hear it all the time, ‘You can’t tax yourself into prosperity,’ absolutely, I don’t disagree with that,” Yocum said. “I am not a proponent of taxes. I am, however, a proponent of properly funding our city and being able to pay for the necessary improvements here and the things residents here want, and the residents here do want to move forward.”

The vice mayor was asked where the Rancho interchange falls on her list of priorities. Miles said the project is a high priority for her, and that City representatives last fall went to the Capitol to speak with the governor’s staff and the Arizona Department of Transportation about the economic and safety benefits of the interchange.

“Now what is being done and has to be done to prioritize are meetings with the stakeholders, the landowners, and developers that are involved to create a development agreement, and that is underway,” Miles said.

Should the TPT initiative pass, Miles said she would continue to support breaking ground on Rancho in 2019 if the City could find a way to fund the project.

Candidates were asked if they think the TPT increase could be dropped once City projects are adequately funded. Miles said “that would be nice,” and that a future Council could adjust taxes at the right time should Kingman be in a financial position to do so. Nelson voiced a different opinion.

“I don’t think that’s actually something that can ever happen just simply because once we have it in place and have it in motion there are other uses for it,” Nelson said. “If it happens and we actually get it, I think it’s going to stay there. I think there are other avenues we need to look at on the other side, which is maybe we need to talk about annexation.”

Yocum said the tax could go away upon completion of the interchange, and that he is hesitant to turn to annexation as a solution.

“We cannot annex because there is no financial incentive for us to do it,” he said. “We would then have to supply services to annexed portions of the City, and if there is no sales tax revenue coming from that annexed portion, it would only cost us to annex.”

Holtry described himself as a “frugal person,” and while he doesn’t like paying the tax he understands its importance. He could see Council doing away with the additional tax should there no longer be a need for it.