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The majority of tax collections from the city's 1.5 percent Advertising and Promotion Commission tax in 2012 will be dedicated toward construction of an events center in Benton.
On Thursday night the A&P Commission made that decision as part of the process of finalizing its 2012 operating budget.
The commission voted to dedicate 96.5 percent of revenue from the A&P tax toward construction of the events center with the remaining 3.5 percent to be allocated for administrative costs.
The 2012 budget does not include monies for funding requests from local events. The 2011 budget for the commission included funding for the Saline County Fair, the Royal Players, Saline County Celebration of Lights, and the Gann Museum among others.
Initially, Commissioner Brad Moore, who is also a Benton alderman, suggested the 2012 budget be allocated as follows: 90 percent toward the events center; 3.5 percent to administrative costs; 5 percent to event funding and the remaining 1.5 percent toward any contingency that may arise during the year.
Moore also identified the Saline County Fair, Old-Fashioned Day, the Wally Hall Tournament and the Royal Players as four organizations/events to which the commission should allocate funds in 2012.
Commission chairman Mark Fikes said, "It gives me real pause to consider expenditures (beyond funding the events center) when we don't know exactly what may happen next year as far as revenues are concerned."
Commissioner Luke Moody agreed, saying, "People I talk to want all of it (revenue from the tax) to go toward the events center."
Following continued discussion, Moore changed his motion to the 96.5 percent amount, which was passed by voice vote.
Sam Stueart, speaking on behalf of the Royal Players, told the commission that without the commission's support, the theater would experience serious financial difficulty. A meeting of the Royal Players Board of Directors had been called for later on Thursday night.
"I will convey your decision to the board tonight," Stueart said. "Our plays do make money. Board members have been dipping into their own pockets to keep things going. The roof is in bad repair and close to collapse. We appreciate what you have done for the theater, and we hold no animosity."
On Nov. 8, the citizens of Benton approved a bond issue to finance the construction of an events center. The ballot included language that "not less than 80 percent" would be allocated toward construction of the center.
In other business, the commission approved the appointment of Jeff Stechmann, manager of Dixie Cafe, to the commission. Stechmann fills the vacancy created following the expiration of Commissioner Charlie Jones' term.