Cen­ter­ton wants vot­ers to con­sider keep­ing sales tax

Spe­cial elec­tion sched­uled Sept. 12

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DOUG THOMP­SON

CEN­TER­TON — The city wants vot­ers to re­new a 1 per­cent sales tax to pay for road work and per­haps a new city hall.

The City Coun­cil de­cided Tues­day in a unan­i­mous vote to put it on the bal­lot in a spe­cial elec­tion Sept. 12.

If vot­ers ap­prove, the tax will pay for up to $25.5 mil­lion in bonds. Pro­ceeds will largely go for roads, Mayor Bill Ed­wards said. A por­tion also will go to ei­ther ex­pand city hall or build a new one. A new city hall would be ex­pected to cost $3 mil­lion at most, he said.

The tax will last un­til the bonds are paid off, ac­cord­ing to dis­cus­sion be­fore the coun­cil. That could be as long as the 30-year life of the bonds. How­ever, growth of the city in­creases the rev­enue from sales taxes. All of the sales tax re­ceipts will go

to pay off the bonds un­der the mea­sure ap­proved by the coun­cil.

“We ex­pect those bonds to be paid off a lot faster than 30 years,” Ed­wards said.

For ex­am­ple, a sim­i­lar bond is­sue and sales tax pro­posal ap­proved by vot­ers in 2006 and re­fi­nanced in 2015 will be paid off this year, 11 years af­ter it was first ap­proved, he said. That is the sales tax this pro­posal would re­place, he said.

Cen­ter­ton’s sales tax raises about $90,000 to $95,000 a month, ac­cord­ing to city fig­ures.

In other coun­cil busi­ness Tues­day night, busi­ness­man Joe O’Con­nor of­fered to sell the city 45- acres used for soccer fields for $4 mil­lion. O’Con­nor is a for­mer res­i­dent

who moved out of state. The acreage has frontage on South­west Sec­ond Street, whichis also Arkansas 72, across the high­way from Talam­ore Boule­vard.

Coun­cil mem­bers ex­pressed a strong de­sire to own the prop­erty and agreed it was well worth the price, but ex­pressed equally strong doubts the city could af­ford the land. The city’s an­nual bud­get is $ 5.6 mil­lion, Ed­wards said later.

“I don’t see a leprechaun at the end of a rain­bow with a pot of gold,” said coun­cil mem­ber Keith Hig­gin­botham.

Other coun­cil mem­bers agreed, say­ing they would talk to res­i­dents and, if nec­es­sary, have a spe­cial meet­ing to dis­cuss if and how the money could be raised. The coun­cil thanked O’Con­nor and promised him a def­i­nite an­swer within 90 days.

The coun­cil and city staff mem­bers also dis­cussed how the pur­chase price alone wouldn’t be the end of the city’s com­mit­ment even if they ac­quired the prop­erty. The lot has no park­ing and, if the high­way frontage is de­vel­oped com­mer­cially, no ac­cess. A build­ing on the prop­erty needs work also, city staff said.

The city could off­set at least part of the cost of ac­qui­si­tion by sell­ing the high­way frontage por­tion, but pri­vate busi­ness ven­tures and real es­tate deals aren’t what the city was set up to do, Hig­gin­botham said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK

Cen­ter­ton’s City Coun­cil de­cided Tues­day to hold a spe­cial elec­tion ask­ing vot­ers to re­new a sales tax to pay for up to $25.5 mil­lion in bonds. Pro­ceeds will largely go for roads, Mayor Bill Ed­wards said. A por­tion also will go to ei­ther ex­pand city hall or build a new one.

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