Utah County residents may be able to approve next month's $7.7 million general-obligation bond for the Utah Valley Special Events Center without facing a property tax increase.

The Utah Senate on Monday approved HB438, which allows counties to impose a 1 percent tax on food and beverages sold at restaurants "for immediate consumption." Revenue generated by the tax is to be earmarked for the development and maintenance of tourism, recreation, cultural and convention facilities. The House of Representatives approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Rob W. Bishop, R-Brigham City, last Tuesday."That's good to hear," said Utah County Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck after hearing about the Senate action.

"If we've got another revenue source, we won't raise property taxes," he said.

The commission will decide Wednesday whether to hold a special countywide bond election to fund the events center.

"I'm hoping that we can now convince our County Commission that indeed we have a project worthy of this revenue source," said UVCC President Kerry Romesburg.

Should a bond be authorized and subsequently approved by voters, Beck said the county would use the tax revenue or a portion of it to retire the debt.

It is estimated that if imposed, the tax would generate about $800,000 in the first year. The amount of revenue the county will receive from the tax will likely increase over the years. The annual bond payment is expected to be about $700,000.

Monday when the Citizens Committee for the Utah Valley Special Events Center approached the County Commission about holding the bond election, it told commissioners that it supports using the tax proceeds to repay the bond.

"If this option should present itself in Utah County I would ask it be used to retire the bond for the Utah Valley Special Events Center," said Ed Pinegar, committee chairman.

Romesburg said he believes "a bond based on this type of tax is much more saleable to the general public" rather than one based on a property tax increase.