Vot­ers to de­cide if Gen­try will raise sales tax

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY MOLL rmoll@nwadg.com

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.

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