Early feedback positive on 'Mesa Bucks’ - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Early feedback positive on 'Mesa Bucks’

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Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 5:31 pm | Updated: 2:24 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Bernie Montoya says he could get addicted to this. Montoya became the first person to take advantage of a new program that lets people accumulate credits for admission to Mesa’s cultural venues, if they shop and spend their tax dollars in the city.

Bernie Montoya says he could get addicted to this.

Shop in Mesa, get some culture

Montoya became the first person to take advantage of a new program that lets people accumulate credits for admission to Mesa’s cultural venues, if they shop and spend their tax dollars in the city.

And you don’t have to be a Mesa resident to benefit. That’s precisely the point — to try to get more people to shop in Mesa.

Monday morning, the opening day of the program’s launch,

Montoya arrived at the Mesa Arts Center’s box office and turned in a sales receipt from a used washer he’d bought recently at Spencer’s TV & Appliances. Within five minutes, he walked away with $15 in “Mesa Bucks,” an amount equal to the sales taxes he paid for the appliance.

Montoya plans to use the bucks for an admission to the Arizona Museum for Youth for an exhibit on Mars.

He said it would be a great way for him to join his wife, a teacher at Lowell Elementary, on a trip to the museum, something she’s deeply interested in.

You have to buy one admission ticket to be able to use the Mesa Bucks to get a second admission ticket to select shows at the Mesa Arts Center as well as local cultural institutes, including the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

Montoya likes the concept.

“That’s the way it should be. If people redeemed all their bucks and not buy a single ticket, then it doesn’t help our institutions,” said Montoya, a Mesa resident of 25 years.

Anyone who shops in Mesa can earn the bucks, which are valued at the amount of sales tax on a store receipt, with a minimum of $3 needed. These are rounded to the nearest $5 and come in $5, $10 or $20 denominations.

Then, for every admission ticket purchased for an event, Mesa Bucks can be used to buy another ticket.

Montoya said what he loved the most about the concept was being able to save money while still enjoying a cultural event or the chance to catch a new exhibit at the museums.

“I spend money in Mesa all the time, so this is great for me,” he said.

Mesa Arts and Cultural Department Director Johann Zietsman said he expects the concept to become more popular over time. He said all the feedback received thus far has been positive.

In fact, a couple of Mesa business owners have contacted the city to let them know they’d be willing to accept Mesa Bucks as partial payment for services.

“It indicates a support for the idea outside of even arts and culture, which lends it a broader appeal,” Zietsman said.

Right now people must go to the box office, with receipts backdated up to April 1, to redeem the bucks. City officials hope to eventually develop a system so people can redeem their receipts at malls or other convenient places across the city.

Montoya, who lives in the Las Sendas area in northeast Mesa, agrees.

“It would be neat if you could somehow even go online to get your Mesa Bucks,” he said.

Montoya’s already been spreading word about the program to his colleagues in his Scottsdale office, and he said he’s even willing to distribute fliers or anything to people at church. As for his colleagues, many of whom are Scottsdale residents, he said, he’s not sure how many will drive to Mesa just for the bucks.

“Even me, I don’t know if it’ll make me stay in Mesa for everything, but it certainly will keep me here more than usual,” he said.

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