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Prescott may poll voters on sales tax increase issue
Council to vote again on business licenses for rentals

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson opposed polling because the issue is already on the ballot.
Matt Hinshaw/Courier file photo

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson opposed polling because the issue is already on the ballot.

A polling service that would give local residents a chance to weigh in on Prescott’s upcoming sales tax measure will be up for a vote by the Prescott City Council this week.

The council will conduct its regular voting session at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, at Prescott City Hall, 201 S. Cortez St. (The normally scheduled 1 p.m. study session has been canceled).

Among the items at the voting session will be a $6,000 contract with the POLCO firm for one year of online survey services.

A city memo notes that the primary purpose of the contract would be to conduct surveys regarding the Aug. 29 ballot measure for a 0.75-percent sales tax increase, which is being proposed as a way to pay down the city’s more than $78 million shortfall in its public-safety pension obligations.

The POLCO contract would not be limited to that issue, however. City Community Outreach Manager John Heiney pointed out that the city could use the online polling for other issues as well, such as the ongoing customer-service improvement program.

Noting that the sales tax election and the ballot wording have already been set by the City Council, Heiney said the polling likely would not focus on whether residents support or oppose the sales tax increase, but rather on questions that residents might have on the issue.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson voiced concerns about the sales-tax polling, however. “My opposition to the polling is — the decision’s already been made; it’s going (to the voters),” he said of the ballot measure.

Lamerson, who said he was not opposed to using the polling service on other city topics, added that the internet format for the polls could skew the results, because not all Prescott residents have online access.

City Manager Michael Lamar said that the polling information would not be viewed as an “end-all be-all” on the matter, but could help the city determine local views and questions.

In other action, the council will:

• Reconsider a business-license rule change, which was rejected by the council Feb. 28 by a 3-3 vote. The change would exempt long-term residential-rental owners from the requirement to apply for a city business license.

Two weeks ago, city officials explained to the council that the residential-rental requirement had raised many questions among owners about the fairness of the license for house and apartment rentals.

City Councilman Steve Sischka was absent from that meeting, and the vote ended in a tie, resulting in failure of the motion. The three council members who opposed the original implementation of the business license program this past year (Lamerson and Council Members Steve Blair and Greg Lazzell) voted against the change.

Since then, the four council members who initially supported the business license (Mayor Harry Oberg, and Council Members Jean Wilcox, Billie Orr, and Sischka) reportedly have asked to have the issue back on the again. City policy allows for any two council members to ask to put an issue on the agenda.

• Consider an infrastructure settlement with the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe regarding the acquisition of easements on the reservation for placement of utility line improvements.

A city memo stated that the city and the tribe entered into a Water Rights Settlement Agreement in 1995 to resolve water-related litigation and permanently settle the tribe’s water rights.

Since then, issues arose over overcharges of fees and taxes collected by the city, and a subsequent settlement was reached in December 2015, according to a city memo, with the understanding that another settlement would follow.

Under the proposed follow-up settlement, the city would pay the tribe $4.875 per square feet of easement acquisitions. In order to do needed improvements to meet minimum demand flows and water pressures, the city has identified 228,800 square feet of easements — for a total cost of $1.1 million.


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