At the city council’s Nov. 1 meeting, Main Street director Ginger Garrard and Main Street board member Bill Grant presented a plan to the city council, including their desire to provide rental assistance for businesses that open downtown.
Garrard and Grant also said the board would like to expand the Main Street website, and noted that downtown merchants have been covering the costs of the Main Street Mornings program.
A 3 percent excise tax on rental cars was proposed in spring to allow Main Street to provide rental subsidies to assist small businesses in the first year of operating.
Under state law, the city is given the authority to impose the tax. The law requires that the funds be used to promote industry, commerce, trade and tourism.
Surrounding cities imposing the excise tax include Woodstock, Cartersville, Johns Creek, Atlanta, Kennesaw, Milton and Alpharetta.
The city council discussed the excise tax at several meetings in the spring, but a vote was never taken. Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood plans to call for such a vote to be taken at tonight’s city council meeting.
Hobgood said he is open to using part of the tax for purposes other than downtown rental assistance, and that the excise tax could be good for the city as a whole.
“I can understand that a company wouldn’t want another fee, nobody wants another fee, but I think, in the best interests of the city as a whole, this is really a good thing,” he said.
Hobgood said he was not aware of any other avenues the city is currently pursuing to give more funding to Main Street.
“I don’t know of any other sources we could look at, unless (Main Street) can get a bigger portion of the hotel/motel tax,” he said.
City Council Member Bill Bryan said his proposal to eliminate the mayor’s staff would save money that could be redirected into Main Street.
“Once you take out the Main Street director’s salary, the whole program has about $20,000 for the whole budget. I think that needs to be significantly increased. Eliminating the unnecessary position (the mayor’s administrative assistant) would be the perfect way to fund that,” he said.
Bryan added that he did not want to support a tax that would be collected from only a handful of businesses.
City Council Member Bob Rush said he is “100 percent against” the excise tax, which he said would unfairly hurt the city’s one major car rental company, Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
“To say, ‘Let’s take $50,000 out of one company and give it to some other,’ I don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” he said.