Voters to decide if Gentry will raise sales tax
GENTRY — On the Nov. 6 ballot, voters living within the city of Gentry will be able to vote for or against raising the sales and use tax within the city by 7/8 of a cent.
The sales tax measure 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 city council in August passed ordinances to increase Gentry’s sales and use tax and to include the measure on the November general election ballot for voter approval.
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 developing 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 and our efforts to provide an excellent quality of life and a great sense of place for our community,” said Kevin Johnston, Gentry’s mayor, at a spring town-hall meeting.
Johnston has urged the passing of the additional tax to enable the city to move forward with a master park plan and to make improvements to existing city services, including public safety services.
The Gentry ballot will include the measure as follows: ORDINANCE NO. 18-781 — ORDINANCE PROVIDING FOR THE LEVY OF AN ADDITIONAL SEVEN-EIGHTHS OF ONE PERCENT (0.875%) LOCAL SALES AND USE TAX WITHIN THE CITY OF GENTRY, ARKANSAS; And PRESCRIBING OTHER MATTERS PERTAINING THERETO. Voters will simply choose whether they are for or against the additional tax.
The Gentry Chamber of Commerce is supporting the tax increase via social media. The following was posted to the Chamber’s Facebook page: “Vote for Gentry’s Future! Be sure and vote on November 6, 2018, for the proposed 7/8 cent sales tax increase. One of the projects made possible with this funding will be a Gentry City Park expansion.”
A video of proposed park improvements has been posted on the city’s website. The plan proposes a baseball and softball complex, soccer fields, courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball and tuj lub (a traditional Hmong top-spinning game), a modern splash pad, the skatepark, disc golf, additional parking, trails and picnic areas. The video shows existing parklands and city-owned property to the west of the railroad which the city recently purchased with the intention of using it for additional park amenities.
The city also held an informational town hall meeting Tuesday night (after press time) at the library to “address questions concerning the proposed 7/8 cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 6th ballot.”
According to Johnston, Gentry will move forward with its plans for improvements in the city, including the park plans, but it will just take a lot longer if the tax measure does not pass.
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.
Johnston has said he thinks the tax increase stands a far better chance of being approved by voters now that the city has presented plans to the public for park improvements and other needs, including streets and public safety services, which would be funded by the additional tax.
Whether the tax increase is approved or not could depend on how much voters want the new park amenities being proposed in the new master park plan or how soon they want them. Another factor which could influence voters is the county’s proposal for a temporary 1/8 cent sales tax to pay for a new court complex in downtown Bentonville. Should Gentry’s tax proposal pass and a county proposal pass in the spring, the sales and use tax in Gentry would be close to 10 percent.