After 45 minutes of debate Thursday night, the Payson Town Council agreed to start the ball rolling on a town code amendment that would decrease the tax on lodging from 3 to 2 percent and impose a new 2 percent levy on restaurants and bars.
Majestic Mountain Inn owner Doug Brackin said he endorsed the new measure, as long as revenues are used as intended and not put into the general fund.
"For some reason," he said, "town government sees a new stream of income coming in and their eyes light up like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning, and they say, 'Wow, we got more money we can spend,' and not for the reasons it was intended ..."
Brackin, who also is co-owner of Fargo's Restaurant currently under construction on Highway 260, said the money needs to be spent to promote Payson through advertising.
"You have to remember, if you pass this tax you're hitting one industry, and when you take you gotta give back," he said. "I'm not going anywhere, and I'm going to be watching, and if I see you spending this money in an improper way I'm going to let you know."
Rim Country Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Kaleta supported Brackin, pointing out that the chamber simply doesn't have the kinds of dollars it takes to effectively market the Rim country in the Valley and elsewhere. He also backed Brackin's admonition not to divert the money to purposes other than promoting the town.
"We would also like to see it devoted to items that promote tourism, and not for maintenance of anything or things like that," Kaleta said. "Creating a community that has destinations is expensive; advertising those destinations is expensive."
Following appearances at the podium by several more speakers, Mayor Ray Schum gaveled the public comments to a halt. After several councilmembers stated their position for the record, the authorization to draft the amendment passed 5-2 with councilmembers Ken Murphy and Hoby Herron dissenting.
The measure will be debated two more times in public forum before a final decision is made.
In other action, the council voted to accept a grant offer of $774,120 from the Federal Aviation Administration to construct T-hangar taxilanes and to widen the taxiway connector at Payson Municipal Airport. The town will have to contribute about $40,000 in matching funds to the project, according to Ted Anderson, airport manager.
Finally, the town pledged $60,000 in matching funds to apply for an Arizona State Parks grant that would be used to create a Payson Historic Park on Main Street at McLane Road.