In the midst of the holiday shopping season, Gilbert is trying to capture as much of the sales taxes paid by its 220,000 residents as possible.
Last week was "Buy Local" week nationally and also marked the second anniversary of the Shop Gilbert campaign, which uses contests, e-mail campaigns and other marketing weapons to convince residents to think about just where their tax dollars are going.
Gilbert spokeswoman Beth Lucas said about 40 percent of the general fund comes from the town's 1.5 percent sales tax. The levy is projected to bring in nearly $44 million during the fiscal year, which will end June 30. Because that money is put into the police and fire departments, parks and other services, "the best deal is to buy local," Lucas said.
The sales tax rate has been at the center of this year's debate on how to address Gilbert's yawning budget shortfall of roughly $14 million as the Valley and state work their way out of their current economic morass.
The town has been working with the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce to promote the campaign by finding sponsors to pay for reusable "Shop Gilbert" bags that are handed out to residents. The supply of bags is low at the moment, yet more are expected to be delivered next week, said Kathy Tilque, Chamber executive director.
"They do go really fast, so we're glad we're going to get a big shipment in," she said.
She said the town has spent $8,800 over the last two years on materials distributed for the campaign, including bookmarks and decals that can be placed in store windows.
The decals are distributed through schools, and they are given free to stores that sign up in a Chamber registry.
The campaign has gained a lot of traction over its two years, Tilque said, with her Shop Gilbert bag receiving comments wherever she goes. Tilque is also encouraged by conversations she's had with people on the street.
"They're taking time to evaluate what they need and whether they can find the store in Gilbert," she said.
Some retailers in Gilbert are seeing a new awareness about shopping local among customers, but factors other than sales tax factor into it, especially given the current economy.
Kimberly Kelly, who, with her husband, owns Forever Diamonds Jewelers at Baseline and Cooper roads, said this Christmas shopping season has been unusual so far because of the number of people coming in to sell gold rather than buy jewelry. That transaction doesn't have any impact on sales tax collections.
"I think everyone who comes in wants to go wherever they can get the best price," she said.
Nancy Rodriquez, manager of a Gymboree children's clothing store at SanTan Village, said the large majority of her customers are from Gilbert, but she thinks that's a matter of convenience more than buyers consciously living by the Shop Gilbert slogan of "put your money where your house is."