Early voting continues for Berryville sales tax extension

Friday, July 7, 2017

Berryville residents can now vote on extending the city’s half-cent sales tax.

Early voting began on Wednesday, July 5, and will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Monday, July 10, at the Carroll County Clerk’s Office at 210 W. Church in Berryville and at the Western District Courthouse at 44 S. Spring St. in Eureka Springs.

The special election will be held from 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 11, at Berryville First United Methodist Church at 400 Eureka Ave. in Berryville.

The Berryville City Council voted in April to approve Ordinances 1009 and 1011 and Resolution 1010 in order to call for the special election on the sales tax. The first, Ordinance 1009, is an ordinance amending Ordinance 970, under which the temporary 0.5 sales tax was initially levied, in order to change the designated use of the sales and use tax to allow it to be used to pay and secure the repayment of bonds approved by the voters and issued by the city. The ordinance also extends the tax by 10 years, moving its expiration date from Sept. 30, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2030.

There will be bond questions on the ballot regarding the following capital improvements: sewer improvements, street improvements, park and recreational improvements, fire department improvements and police department improvements. The police and fire department improvement bonds are related to equipment only.

Each capital improvement bond has a specified maximum aggregate principal amount. The maximum aggregate principal amount is $550,000 for sewer improvements, $4,400,000 for street improvements, $1,200,000 for parks and recreational improvements, $125,000 for fire department improvements and $225,000 for police department improvements.

Mayor Tim McKinney said the maximum amounts allowed would give the city enough to make bond payments and have funding left over, which would then go into the general fund.

If only one bond issue, such as street improvements, passes while the others fail, the city would be able to issue bonds only for streets.

If the tax passes and all the bond questions fail, the tax will be changed and levied for an extended time period. To the extent that no bonds are outstanding, the city would be able to use the revenue generated by the sales tax for general purposes.

If the tax issue fails and any of the bond questions pass, the city could not issue bonds because it would not have any way to pay them back. The city could, however, come back in six months and try to pass the tax again.

The tax was originally approved by voters in a June 2011 special election, with a 24-month sunset clause. Two years later, voters in another special election approved extending the tax for another two years, and a five-year extension got voters’ OK in a special election in May 2015.

The tax is currently set to expire in 2020. Extending it an additional five years would allow the city to issue approximately $7 million in bonds that could be used to finance a variety of projects, McKinney said. Otherwise, the mayor said the city would have to wait until it has the cash in hand to move forward on projects such as adding a pump station at the industrial park, installing more sidewalks, investing in new equipment for the police department and making long-term repairs to the city’s outdoor pool.

“Extending the sales tax would allow us to complete a lot of these projects sooner rather than later,” he said. “Some of the repair projects are going to get more expensive to do the more we wait. We will probably save money in the long run by starting them now.”

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