Businesses near the Civic Center, such as Charleston Town Center Mall, already are undergoing millions of dollars in renovations, Jones said.
The Civic Center redo would be a way for the city to show these businesses it is serious about attracting more visitors, he said.
The state's Home Rule pilot program gives four cities, Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport and Wheeling, the power to undertake initiatives not otherwise permitted in state code.
Charleston would have to apply to the Home Rule board for permission to enact a sales tax, Molgaard said. And the city would have to pass an ordinance before going to the Home Rule board.
Molgaard hopes to have the bill before City Council for approval on April 1. The city must hold a public hearing on the tax changes before the bill can be passed.
The state's home rule pilot program expires this June 30. State leaders have indicated "in strong language" that any new home rule legislation would prohibit cities from enacting new taxes, Jones said.
That creates pressure for the city to get the measure passed before the pilot program expires this summer.
Jones believes the new sales tax is the only way the city can generate enough funds to renovate the Civic Center.
The city already has established a special tax district in a section of the downtown. City council approved the district in January 2012.
That district, permitted under a state law designed to spur economic development, allows local governments to capture property tax revenue growth as development by businesses within the district cause their appraisals to rise. The money is to be devoted to new projects.
The city's proceeds from the downtown district will be an estimated $600,000 a year and also will also be used to finance the Civic Center renovations, Molgaard said.
The district is expected to generate a total of $6 million for the renovations, but the city needed much more for a project of this size.
Jones said he did not know if retailers would oppose the plan to enact a city sales tax.
However, Molgaard thinks the B&O reduction and the prospect of increased foot traffic from larger conventions and events at the Civic Center should encourage businesses to support the proposal.
Mall spokeswoman Lisa McCracken believes the proposal is a good move for the city. She also sits on the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors.
She said she is frequently asked why Charleston does not have larger concerts with bigger acts, or bigger conventions and events at the Civic Center.
"There's a good reason for that," she said. "The facility no longer fits the needs, and other metropolitan areas are getting those events."
McCracken said she understood shoppers might be upset about the additional sales tax but she hopes the potential benefits will alleviate those concerns.
"No one wants to pay more out of pocket," she said. "But that small amount will have a huge impact on the community and the surrounding area.
"We're all going to benefit from this," she said.
Mike Ward, owner of Cornucopia, a gift shop on Bridge Road, isn't so sure. The 56-year-old entrepreneur has owned his Bridge Road business for 26 years.
It might be inconvenient to have to explain to patrons why they were being charged a 6.5 percent sales tax.
"I'll have to explain to the customers what the extra half percent sales tax is for," Ward said. "The B&O tax is kind of an invisible tax for them."
The additional sales tax will increase his workload because he will have to change his accounting system.
"I think it will be disruptive to anyone running a business in the city," Ward said.
He said he was leery of any new taxes during these "tough economic times."
During Tuesday's press conference, Jones acknowledged that the city might see some opposition to the proposal. However, he thinks this is the best way to finance the needed Civic Center renovations.
"I would ask anyone who opposes this what their plan is," he said.
The state Tax Department would collect the sales tax and then send the city its share of the revenue, Jones said.