Early voting begins today for the Oct. 11 special election to extend Fayetteville’s 1-cent sales tax.
Registered voters who don’t plan to make it to the polls next week may cast ballots between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays leading up to voting day. To vote early, just head over to the County Clerk’s office at the Washington County Courthouse, 280 N. College Ave.
To check voter registration status or to find a polling place, visit voterview.org or call 479-444-1711.
The 18-year-old penny sales tax — which must be voted on every 10 years — accounts for about $15.4 million in Fayetteville’s general and capital improvement funds and goes towards a variety of uses, including city employee payroll, street and sidewalk work, and trail construction.
According to county officials, voters first approved the tax in April 1993 by a vote of 3,675 to 619. The tax was extended in 2002 by a vote of 2,531 to 789.
Should the extension pass, it would remain in effect until June 2023.
The tax was last week endorsed by members of a citizen group called Vote FOR Fayetteville. The committee, led by Ward 3 Alderman Justin Tennant, includes a half dozen representatives of local business and nonprofit groups.
Tennant told those in attendance at a campaign rally that basic city services would be threatened if the extension is not passed.
“A vote ‘for Fayetteville’ would help keep approximately 148 jobs that would be likely eliminated,” he said. “This would include, unfortunately, up to 55 police department employees and 38 fire department workers.”
Paul Becker, the city’s finance director, has made similar warnings concerning job cuts if the tax is not extended.
Also advocating the tax’s continuation is the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods (FCON), which last week passed a resolution supporting the renewal.
The Washington County Tea Party is so far the only group expressing any formal opposition to the tax renewal.
In a press release issued Tuesday, chairman Jeff Oland said talk of job cuts is just a scare tactic.
“To threaten people with closing fire stations and cutting police protection first if they don’t keep paying this tax is dishonest,” said Oland. “Cutting spending in other areas never seems to be an option,” he said.
Oland said people don’t come to Fayetteville because of programs and amenities such as the city’s expanding trail system. “People choose to live and shop and do business where taxes are lower,” he said. “Keep the taxes high, and the people paying the taxes will eventually leave.”