I’m not sure if this is a distinction Wickenburg wants. Unfortunately, it’s there: local sales tax in Wickenburg restaurants is a whopping 11.5%. To put that in perspective, that’s 3.55 percentage points above Scottsdale and almost 2 percentage points above Sedona. Only the farming community of Eloy is higher at 12.6%. Only 13 of the 93 localities in the state have restaurant sales tax higher than 10%.
What’s going on here? We all know that the mayor and council have been scratching for revenue sources for quite some time. The retail sales tax went up about 3 years ago. Annexation has run amok, with the town grabbing any Maricopa County property it can, whether the homeowner on that property agrees to annexation or not. Promises to property owners that their taxes will not increase will soon be as forgotten as the vote on Prop 421. I’m sure the town is counting on rising real estate values as an excuse to suck more revenue out of new town residents.
But raising the restaurant and lodging sales taxes? Is that the way to attract visitors to Wickenburg? Is that the way to attract new business to Wickenburg?
Wickenburg is already suffering from a seasonal economy brought on by its tourism-based approach to business. It already has far more housing than can be supported by good local, year-round jobs. Its residents routinely complain about high prices for necessities like gas and clothing. They think nothing of hopping in the car and driving down to Surprise or Glendale or Peoria to shop.
But rather than attract new local businesses (and employers) or stimulate the growth of existing businesses, Wickenburg prefers to ignore the root of the problem and suck tax revenue out of homeowners and visitors.
When are the Mayor and Council and (Chamber of Commerce, for that matter) going to wake up and smell the dry rot? The town can earn just as much tax revenue by making it more attractive to shop and dine and own a business in Wickenburg than it can by raising taxes that drive consumers away.