Residents, business representatives heard on TPT

Paul Gaines (left), a business owner and representative of the Kingman Airport Users Association, spoke in favor of ratifying the TPT (sales tax) during Tuesday’s town hall hosted by the City Council.

Miner/file

Paul Gaines (left), a business owner and representative of the Kingman Airport Users Association, spoke in favor of ratifying the TPT (sales tax) during Tuesday’s town hall hosted by the City Council.

KINGMAN – The future was the primary concern for 31 Kingman residents and business representatives who spoke at Tuesday’s public forum, as both proponents and opponents of the Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) rate increase believed the increase will help or hinder, respectively, the city in the years to come.

Kim Gross, chief administrative officer at Advance Management & Investments, LLC (AMI) noted AMI’s opposition to the tax increase. AMI owns and operates eight hotel properties in Kingman, and Gross says they are already feeling the sting from the increase.

“A comparison of AMI’s economic activity before and after the tax increase shows our revenue down at every hotel except for one,” Gross told Council. “It surprised us that despite an almost $45,000 overall drop in gross revenues, which equates to a 6.5 percent decrease in one month, there was also a significant increase in the sales tax that we pay to the city.”

Martin Swanty, owner of multiple car dealerships throughout Mohave County, concurred with AMI’s disapproval of the tax increase, saying it is a “detriment to our business and it is a detriment to the city.”

“Our business, and this is verifiable, is down about 10 percent since Nov. 1,” Swanty continued, after noting a Chamber of Commerce survey finding about 60 percent of local business owners are against the increase and would prefer the issue be brought to the public for a vote.

Citizens also stressed concern that residents, if the TPT rate increase is ratified, will go elsewhere for purchases both large and small to save money.

Sarah Ferry, a lifelong resident of Kingman and a small business owner, stated her approval for the tax increase and questioned the Chamber of Commerce survey, noting that perhaps not all of Kingman’s business owners are members of the chamber, including herself. She also encouraged residents to attend Council meetings so as to stay informed.

“I understand that people don’t want to pay taxes, more taxes, nobody wants to pay taxes, but at least in our community we know that it’s going back into our community,” Ferry said. “And I feel that without a property tax in Kingman we don’t have too many options to fund the things that need to be funded in our community.”

Many other citizens and business representatives, including those from the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park, voiced their support for the tax, saying it is about investing in the future of Kingman. Paul Gaines, who owns a business at the airport, said he is for the tax increase, provided it is used for “approved and new infrastructure.” The new infrastructure, including Interstate 40 interchanges at Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake Wash, would go hand-in-hand with capital improvement projects supported by the tax increase.

“This is about planning ahead and that’s really most important I think,” Gaines said. “It’s about all of us investing in our community and our future.”

Other community members noted the poor condition of roads throughout town and were in agreement that the tax increase is necessary to repair and further maintain the roads.

“Although I recognize that there is need and enthusiasm for both the Kingman Crossing and the Rancho Santa Fe (Rattlesnake Wash) interchanges, I do not believe it is appropriate for the City to collect a tax for a project that, as of yet, does not exist,” Mayor Monica Gates said via email. “Additionally, we all know that sales tax revenue fluctuates. When the next economic downturn occurs, the debt service on this obligation will need to be paid from general fund money, impacting police, fire and all other essential services.”

“As I have expressed in the past, I wish to honor the vote of the people and sell the City-owned property at the Kingman Crossing,” Gates continued. “KRMC is the ideal partner and is interested in constructing the interchange. I support this idea and want the City to resume dialog with representatives of the hospital.”

Mayor Gates summarized by saying she supports the half-cent TPT increase for essential services and pavement preservation, but does not support the half-cent TPT increase for the interchanges.

“I appreciate each person that attended the town hall, regardless of stance, because there was no doubt that everyone cared about Kingman’s future,” said Vice Mayor Jen Miles in an email.

Miles said she was “heartened” by the number of people speaking in favor of keeping the tax. Of the 31 people who spoke, some 19 were clearly in favor of the tax while eight were clearly opposed, and the others on the fence.

“As most people know, I share the view that this increase in sales tax revenue is critical in order to invest in our infrastructure repair, maintenance and development,” Miles continued. “That, in turn, becomes an invitation for industrial and commercial growth leading to economic vitality versus the economic stagnation of the past decade.”

Council will vote on ratification of the TPT rate increase, as well as on the Dec. 31, 2017 “sunset date” for the TPT, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 310 N. Fourth St. Also to be discussed is the option for a supermajority vote, which would require a Council vote of 6-1 for future tax increases.