Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville wants firm to push city

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Even though the money from the new prepared-food tax hasn’t made it into the city coffers yet, the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission still wants to make plans to bring in a public- relations firm.

The first check form the tax, which local businesses started collecting Oct. 1, should be in by the end of November. In the meantime, collection of the 2-cent motel tax, which funds the commission’s activities, is down. Through the first eight months of the year, hotel gross revenue has dropped close to $500,000.

“The sooner we promote the city the better off we’ll be,” said Alderman Marshall Smith, the commission’s chairman.
Smith said he would seek bids the first quarter of 2008.

Mayor Tommy Swaim, also a member of the commission, said the proposal to a marketing firm needed to be broad.

“We want them to tell us what they can do for us. They are the professionals and ought to be able to tell us what we need,” the mayor said.

He added that a firm could probably be hired before all the funds are in. “I doubt if they’ll need all the money at once,” he said. The 2-cent prepared-food tax, also known as the hamburger tax, is expected to bring in about $550,000 a year.

But the ordinance creating the tax requires 50 percent of the funds to go to the Parks and Recreation department. The commission also plans to help support the military museum.

“We are committed to helping them acquire a C-130 for display,” Smith said. Funding is also projected for the Patriotic Spectacular and the Wing Ding Festival.

The commission paid about $3,600 to rent an entertainment stage at the recent Wing Ding Festival.

“I was real surprised when I saw the stage that it had First Arkansas Bank and Trust plastered on it,” said commissioner John Hurley. “We paid for that stage with taxpayers’ money, not the bank. People want to see what they’re are getting for their tax money.”

He suggested the commission invest in banners that can be displayed at activities like the Wing Ding, the Patriotic Spectacular and other activities the commission helps and supports.

The commission expected to collect about $88,000 from the motel tax this year. Through August it has collected $50,278. In 2006, the commission collected $82,893 in taxes and about the same in 2005.

The commission turned down a request by Tommy Dupree to spend $5,000 for 100 copies of a coffee-table style book on the history of Little Rock Air Force Base. The city has several copies on hand which are give to visitors.