Berryville voters OK extension of sales tax

Friday, June 14, 2013

BERRYVILLE -- A half-cent city sales tax has been extended by voters in paltry turnout during a special election on Tuesday in Berryville.

Ninety-two residents of 2,062 eligible Berryville voters cast their ballots to decide whether to extend a special half-cent sales tax, or about 4.5 percent of eligible voters -- fewer than half the number that turned out for the city's 2011 special sales tax election.

Now that it has been approved by voters by 79 for and 13 against, the tax will be extended another two years.

In the 2011 special election, 203 votes were cast from the 1,809 registered voters, which equaled about 11.2 percent voter turnout.

"I don't have any explanation for low voter turnout," said County Election Coordinator Bethe Henley. "Generally our special elections and school elections have lower turnouts than elections for public officials. There is just not as much interest in special elections. There is no rhyme or reason for why people do the things they do."

The sales tax, first approved by voters in 2011, will be used to fund police and fire service and to finance capital improvements for street and public safety projects.

In his annual state of the city address, delivered in February, Mayor Tim McKinney said the tax had been used to purchase and outfit three new police cars and two new fire trucks in the last year -- at a total cost of more than half-a-million dollars.

If voters were to renew the tax, the mayor said at the time, the revenue would be used primarily for street improvements. Projects on the city's wish list include the installation of sidewalks on and widening of East College Street and the completion of a loop on the west and north sides of the city to relieve congestion and encourage commercial development.

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