BV mayor proposes sales tax extension
Mayor Tim McKinney believes extending Berryville’s temporary sales tax is vital to the future of the city.
In his “State of the City Address” at Tuesday’s Berryville City Council meeting, McKinney focused on the progress, both current and future, being made in the city.
He said the most amazing fact to him when looking at the city’s growth over the last 26 years is that the city council has met the needs associated with the growth while keeping the per capita tax rate on its citizens one of the lowest in the state and surrounding areas. The only permanent tax increase imposed by the city in the last 26 years, he said, has been the passage of a 0.5 percent sales tax to build and maintain the Berryville Community Center (BCC), which was offset by the repeal of city property taxes and utility franchise taxes within the city limits.
“The repeal of those taxes actually resulted in less total taxes paid by many property owners within the city,” McKinney said. “Berryville is also located in one of only three or four
counties in Arkansas where the cities do not receive a portion of the county sales tax.”
The temporary sales tax has been used wisely over the years to meet the needs relating to the city’s growth, he said, while existing revenues have been used efficiently to meet the day-to-day needs of the city.
Although the city has operated on a “pay-as-you-go” basis with the temporary 0.5 percent sales tax in the past, McKinney said he believes it is time to extend the sales tax for 10 years and issue bonds that will allow the city to move forward with street and infrastructure projects that are necessary to meet the future growth needs of Berryville.
“This will maintain our city sales tax rate at 2 percent,” he said, “which is the same or less than most all of the cities in Northwest Arkansas.”
McKinney continued, “With the continual rise in costs of major infrastructure projects, such as expansion of the water distribution and sewer collection systems or street construction and improvements, I feel the interest paid on the bonds will be offset by completing these projects now instead of waiting until the money becomes available.”
By doing so, he said he believes the city will not only save money in the long term but will also have the necessary infrastructure in place to meet the needs of new businesses, homebuilders or others wanting to relocate to Berryville. He said this is something he hopes to move forward with this year with the approval of the city council.
McKinney listed several of the projects the city will be working on in 2017.
One of the biggest, he said, is the Berryville Water Department’s rural water expansion project. About $9.3 million in grants and loans from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ARNC) have allowed the city to extend its water service to areas that may become part of Berryville in the future, he said.
“This project is a lot of work, and some may wonder why the city would undertake such a project,” McKinney said. “My answer to them is that we are looking not just a year or two ahead in the future, but 10 to 20 years from now when hundreds of thousands of people can have access to a clean, safe and reliable source of water.”
He continued, “By that time, Berryville and the immediate surrounding area may have grown into a city with a population of 10,000 to 20,000 people.”
For the Berryville Parks and Recreation Department, McKinney said that the city has a public outdoor pool and ballpark light poles that have almost reached the end of their expected lives.
“We will need to address those and many other needs in the next 10 years if we are to adequately maintain what we have in the future,” he said.
The city has also been working on making the Public Square a place people want to visit and do business, McKinney said, such as replacing old sidewalks and adding the new fence along Highway 62 to increase .
“The only downside of the fence is you can no longer turn on a red light. I believe that is a small price to pay for our public safety,” he said.
McKinney noted that the city was given the National Guard Armory building in August 2015 and has been working diligently to find a way to utilize the space as a career training center. He said he hopes it will have a lasting beneficial impact for area youth as well as offering education classes.
McKinney said the city recently met with North Arkansas College to discuss the proposed plans.
“We should know in the next few months if this dream will become a reality,” he said. “If not, we will find another use for this valuable asset.”
In his closing, McKinney encouraged citizens to invest in Berryville.
“We are doing well, but we can do better. We will if we all invest in our city,” he said. “This investment does not just mean our money. We need people to invest their time in Berryville, shop in Berryville, keep Berryville an attractive and clean place to live, support our school, support our local youth programs, love your neighbor and realize how much better we are when working together as opposed to letting our differences divide us.”
McKinney concluded, “Finally, I want to close with a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to so many city employees, citizens and especially the city council for all you do for Berryville and, most of all, for giving me the opportunity to be your mayor.”