Coun­cil passes tax-in­crease pro­posal on sec­ond read­ing

Or­di­nances, res­o­lu­tion passed set­ting fees for ser­vices

Westside Eagle-Observer - - NEWS - RANDY MOLL

GEN­TRY — City coun­cil on Mon­day moved a pro­posed in­crease in Gen­try’s sales and use tax an­other step closer to re­al­ity, ac­cepted the fi­nal plat for the Sun­set Ridge sub­di­vi­sion and ap­proved rate changes for fire ser­vices.

Passed on their sec­ond read­ings by the Gen­try City Coun­cil on Mon­day were two or­di­nances con­nected with seek­ing to raise the sales and use tax in Gen­try by 7/8 of one per­cent. One or­di­nance au­tho­rizes the ad­di­tional tax if ap­proved by Gen­try vot­ers, and the sec­ond or­di­nance places the mea­sure on the Novem­ber 6 gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot.

If ap­proved on three read­ings by the coun­cil and then by vot­ers in Novem­ber, the sales tax in­crease would in­crease Gen­try’s lo­cal sales tax from 1 1/8 cents per dol­lar to 2 cents per dol­lar and would make Gen­try’s sales tax the same as the tax rate in Siloam Springs and nu­mer­ous other lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The state tax rate is 6.5 per­cent, the county re­ceives 1 per­cent, and the city cur­rently re­ceives 1.125 per­cent. The in­crease would raise the to­tal sales tax rate in Gen­try from 8.625 per­cent to 9.5 per­cent.

The ded­i­cated break­down be­ing pro­posed in the or­di­nance is 1/8 cent for street im­prove­ments (in­clud­ing side­walks and park­ing); 1/4 cent for pub­lic safety (po­lice, fire and am­bu­lance ser­vices); and 1/2 cent to the city’s Gen­eral Fund, to be used (though not specif­i­cally ded­i­cated) for the evolv­ing park mas­ter plan as needed for phases and for other city projects.

“Once the ‘plan’ is ad­dressed, the half-cent will be uti­lized to sup­port the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of the new sys­tem

The sales tax in­crease would in­crease Gen­try’s lo­cal sales tax from 1 1/8 cents per dol­lar to 2 cents per dol­lar and would make Gen­try’s sales tax the same as the tax rate in Siloam Springs and nu­mer­ous other lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. and our ef­forts to pro­vide an ex­cel­lent qual­ity of life and a great sense of place for our com­mu­nity,” Kevin John­ston, Gen­try’s mayor, said at a town hall meet­ing last spring.

This is not the first time the city coun­cil re­quested the in­crease. The coun­cil passed or­di­nances in 2014 to levy the ad­di­tional tax, but the vot­ers failed to ap­prove it in the gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber 2014. The 2014 bid for an ad­di­tional 7/8 cent sales tax was de­feated 347 to 252.

At the rec­om­men­da­tion of the plan­ning and zon­ing com­mis­sion at a spe­cial meet­ing last week, the coun­cil on Mon­day ap­proved the fi­nal plat of the Sun­set Ridge sub­di­vi­sion on three read­ings with a sin­gle vote and with an emer­gency clause at­tached. The ac­tion will make it pos­si­ble for the de­vel­oper to sell lots and build new homes in the first phase of the de­vel­op­ment.

Also passed were or­di­nances ad­just­ing the charges for non-mem­ber, non-emer­gency or standby fire depart­ment ser­vices to $100 per hour per truck and $20 per per­son per hour for la­bor. The old fees were $85 and $15. Con­nec­tion and bor­ing fees were ad­justed to ac­tual costs (in­clud­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion fees) on a case-by-case ba­sis rather than us­ing a set fee.

A res­o­lu­tion was passed au­tho­riz­ing the city to col­lect the ac­tual costs plus a $10 han­dling fee to file pa­per­work with the county for such things as deeds, tract splits and fi­nal plats. The city plans to han­dle the fil­ing and no­tify the prop­erty own­ers when all is filed and the pa­per­work is avail­able for pickup at city hall.

A list of city-owned old and out­dated equip­ment, in­clud­ing old com­put­ers, print­ers, type­writ­ers, key­boards, cell­phones and other elec­tron­ics was pre­sented to the coun­cil for dis­posal pur­poses, with the coun­cil ap­prov­ing the items be dis­posed of in ac­cord with state law.

Kevin John­ston, Gen­try’s mayor, shared a letter in which the city is re­quest­ing as­sis­tance from the State Aid Street Com­mit­tee for 12 sur­face and over­lay projects within the city. Streets in­cluded in the re­quest are S. East­ern, W. Ful­ton, N. By­ers, N. Ed­mond­son, S. Lit­tle, E. Craw­ford, Allen, Bloom­field, Crafton, Duck­worth and Flint. The grant as­sis­tance comes from a 1/2 cent fuel tax. The city ap­plied for and re­ceived $250,000 for street work three years ago and is hop­ing to re­ceive the full amount again this year. Ac­cord­ing to John­ston, the streets are pri­or­i­tized in the event the city does not re­ceive the full amount. He also said the State Aid Com­mit­tee would be look­ing at the city’s pro­posed projects on July 19 and he hoped to pos­si­bly know more about as­sis­tance to be re­ceived by the Au­gust coun­cil meet­ing.

John­ston up­dated the coun­cil on the Dawn Hill East bridge pro­ject, say­ing things were close to the phase in which the full de­sign work would be done, making way for ac­tual construction to fol­low.

Also re­ported by John­ston was work done to ob­tain grants and fi­nanc­ing through the United States Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and the U.S. Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion for a new above­ground wa­ter stor­age tank to sup­ply wa­ter for the east side of Gen­try’s wa­ter ser­vice area and for the Sim­mons plant now un­der construction. At a com­mit­tee meet­ing last week, coun­cil mem­bers urged John­ston to work to­gether with Sim­mons to come up with a plan which was fair to all, with Sim­mons pay­ing for the ser­vices the city will pro­vide to its plant and not putting the bur­den on tax­pay­ers but also not ex­pect­ing Sim­mons to pay for costs which right­fully are the city’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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