After City Hall concluded its first round of public hearings, the citizens of Little Rock finally got their first glimpse of the proposed new sales tax initiative last week which is intended to plug an on-going financial problem with meeting the needs of this city. While fully recognizing that something has to be done on the revenue side to address those needs, I must say that the general proposal as recently publicized may be a tough sell. For one thing, while ambitious in its attempt to fund many worthwhile issues, it falls way short of detail in explaining exactly how this money will be spent and what oversight mechanisms will be installed to ensure public accountability. Also, I think it is strategically flawed in its bifurcated structure which only serves to complicate the tax proposal for consideration by our citizens.
Unless I have missed something, it is to have two tax rate increases, one for 1/2% tax to raise approximately $205 million for capital needs which will expire after eight years, and another 3/4% perpetual tax to raise approximately $38 million for general operations by the fourth year assuming a 2% annual growth rate. In regard to proceeds from both taxes the breakdown is as follows:
CAPITAL NEEDS OPERATIONS
Public Safety $ 44,400,000 $ 15,000,000
Public Works $ 70,000,000 $ 5,000,000
Economic Development $ 40,000,000 -0-
Parks, Recreation, $ 40,300,000 $ 4,000,000
Zoo and Tourism
Miscellaneous $ 10,000,000 $ 14,000,000
Totals $ 204,700,000 $ 38,000,000
Aside from being much too general and vague, it appears to be the same old Christmas tree tax proposal that once again is designed to be debated and voted on during the sparsest time of the year for public input in order to maximize a positive result. Just look at the schedule for the second round of public hearings which start tomorrow, June 13th and conclude on June 25th, a popular vacation period for many citizens. Having led a sales tax increase initiative in 2003 to raise $100 million over five years to just address the basic infrastructure needs of this city (i.e. streets, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, drainage system, etc.) which eight years ago totaled over $500 million, I get the timing. What I don't get is the resistance to fully disclose more detail about both tax proposals which only raises doubts and creates suspicion among the voters. At least in 2003 we identified some specific projects throughout this city that needed to be fixed.
In addition, if some citizens of Little Rock are still complaining about the lack of accountability for the $200,000 that is gifted to the Chamber of Commerce each year for economic development, just imagine what questions will be raised regarding a proposed $40 MILLION economic development fund! And, of course, the "least of these" apparently get left in the wake again with no discernible provision in either tax proposal that I can find to fund a homeless day resource center which has been discussed for years. Yet we are asked to provide who knows what to house and maintain animals at the Little Rock Zoo which reflects a total disconnect in priorities in my view. And, relative to providing additional tax revenue for "tourism", don't we already pay a special sales tax in Little Rock to the Advertising and Promotion Commission dedicated just for that purpose? So, Mr. Mayor, City Directors and Mr. City Manager, please be more open with your citizens and not be so reticent to provide the additional detail on these proposed hefty sales tax increases at the very time you are asking us to support them. We all need many more specifics on how you intend to spend this additional revenue which would make it much easier for you to get what you want.
And, finally, getting back to a point made earlier, why not just consolidate these two separate proposals into one simple 1% permanent sales tax with a dedicated split between operations and capital needs? Surely, an additional $50 million annually is enough to make needed repairs, purchase equipment, build buildings and operate this city for a long, long time without possibly coming back asking for more tax in eight years.
For more of what information does exist on these two proposals, please go to the Arkansas Times blog at http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2011/06/07/little-rock-sales-tax-talk.
ARTISTS - Visual and Audio
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://email@example.com
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Sandy Hubler Fine Art at http://sandyhublerfineart.com
George Wittenberg at http://postcard-art-gallery.com
Will Barnet at http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&expIds=17259,17315,23628,23670,24472,25834,26095,26328,26562,26637,26761,26790,26849,26992,27095,27126,27139,27147,27178&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=will+barnet&cp=9&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=xpfETMT1O4L6lwf66ugE&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CEkQsAQwAQ&biw=1350&bih=501
Barry Thomas at http://barrythomasart.com
Sherry Williamson at http://meowbarkart.com
Julie McNair at http://juliemcnair.com
Phoebe Lichty at http://phoebelichty.com
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com
Red Door Gallery at http://reddoorgalleryonline.com
M2 Gallery at http://m2lr.com
UALR Gallery Program at http://ualr.edu/art
Gallery 26 at http://gallery26.com
Boswell Mourot Fine Art at http://boswellmourot.com