It appears Pima County won’t join the city in its efforts to lure the film industry back to Tucson.
Last month, the city took the first step by approving a 25 percent rent discount on city-owned or -operated property for films with production costs of $2 million or more.
City officials didn’t want to stop there and are toying with the idea of earmarking some funds for a sales-tax rebate through Visit Tucson.
The plan is to initially increase the city’s Visit Tucson contribution about 1 percent, or $90,000, and have that go toward a 75 percent sales-tax rebate for qualified productions.
The city invited the county to join in bolstering Visit Tucson’s film-incentive package.
But County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry declined the offer. Huckelberry said it was “inappropriate” for the county to participate in a sales-tax-reimbursement program since it doesn’t levy a sales tax.
Huckelberry’s decision didn’t sit well with the city’s most ardent film-industry promoter.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik said county missteps in regard to Kino Stadium shouldn’t preclude participation in bringing movie and television productions back to Tucson.
“I understand that they’re saddled with a ton of debt for the foolish decision to put a baseball park in the wrong location,” Kozachik said. “But that shouldn’t stand in the way of their earmarking a portion of what they’re already giving to Visit Tucson for the film-incentive fund.”
By statute, the county must use a portion of its remaining bed tax to pay down Kino Stadium debt.
Huckelberry said the county already contributes significantly more of its bed tax than the city.
The county hands over 50 percent of its bed tax, $3.1 million, to the regional tourism agency while the city contributes 33 percent, or $2.9 million.
The “stark contrast” in what each entity gives to Visit Tucson factored heavily into Huckelberry’s decision to pass on the city’s proposal.
Huckelberry might reconsider if the city increased its contributions to reflect county levels.
Kozachik portrays Huckelberry’s position as shortsighted and a hindrance to economic growth.
“We keep hearing that Tucson and the region are among the poorest in the nation. Then let’s start doing something about job creation and help expand a clean industry that belongs here,” Kozachik said.
If Tucson, with or without the county, does eventually move forward with the tax rebate, it would start to align itself with 40 states that offer incentives for film productions.
The city decided to take the initiative because the state dumped its film incentives years ago and recent efforts to revive them have failed.
Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson, would like to see the state restore tax credits.
“Ideally, we’d be able to get this resolved through the state of Arizona,” DeRaad said.
DeRaad said no tax-credit bills are slated for this legislative session, only a bill that would set up a film and media office within the Governor’s Office.