Alison Hurtado, Staff Writer

The food tax remains a hot-button issue on the Phoenix City Council but the public appears to have lost interest, according to attendance at the city’s public hearings.

City staff has been hosting public hearings across Phoenix through September, but in seven public meetings only eight public comments were recorded. Two of the meetings were closed early because no one attended.

“This has been a hot issue,” said Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “It has been an issue people care about. It’s amazing that now that we’re talking about reducing the food tax, we only have a handful of people showing up to the meetings. I’m not sure if it’s because of the debate we’re having among ourselves (on council) or because we tried to find a happy medium phasing out the food tax… I believe this phasing out is what’s best for the city of Phoenix.”

Nowakowski, Councilwoman Thelda Williams and Councilman Sal DiCiccio have all been calling for an early reduction of the food tax. After their insistence the city’s Finance Department found some ways to reduce the food tax by 1 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2014. The council will vote on whether or not to accept that plan on Oct. 16.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24, Councilman Michael Johnson expressed some concern about removing the food tax too early. If the city doesn’t receive the revenue growth that has been projected there may be some issues. Johnson also pointed out that if the food tax weren’t reduced early those funds could be used for infrastructure or to update some needed police equipment.

“You’re about to ruin a happy moment,” DiCiccio told Johnson. “There’s more than enough money to do everything if this council is willing to make some tough decisions... There is nothing to ponder. This tax is going away as promised because the taxpayers deserve it.”

DiCiccio claims there has been some growth in revenue, about $71 million, that could be better utilized.

The public hearings on reducing the food tax will continue through the beginning of October. The council will decide whether or not to move forward with reducing the tax on Oct. 16. The entire food tax is scheduled to sunset in March of 2015.

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