All sorts of things were discussed during Monday night’s Town Hall Meeting at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. One issue, however, was given top priority by Mayor Lioneld Jordan.
Jordan began and ended the meeting by stressing the importance of the upcoming Oct. 11 sales tax special election.
If approved, the city’s 1-cent sales and use tax will be extended for an additional 10 years. The tax has been in effect since 1993 and was extended by a public vote in 2002. The current penny tax won’t expire until 2013, but city officials want to put it to a vote now before any other potential tax increase ballot items can pose a threat to its passing.
Jordan said the tax is responsible for $15.4 million of the city’s overall budget, a number which, if unapproved, puts in jeopardy a host of capital improvement projects and as many as 150 city employees’ jobs.
“Now is the time for every citizen to go to the polls and vote on October 11, and not just vote, but vote in favor of this sales tax,” Jordan told the small crowd Monday night.
“Without that,” Jordan said, “the very quality of life that you now enjoy will go away.”
Below is a recap of what each of the other city officials highlighted Monday night.
Paul Becker – Finance Director
Sales tax revenues are up 5 percent on the year, which Becker said was good news considering the city’s been on a five-year decline.
Becker also said the current administration has cut its general fund budget by about $2 million since 2009, which he said is pretty impressive since the city had an additional $900,000 in unavoidable expenses this past year in police/fire retirement and insurance fees.
After evaluating paid parking for one year, Becker said he doesn’t believe there is any evidence to suggest the Dickson Street area sales have suffered from the new program.
“There was a lot of concern for what that would do to the businesses down on Dickson Street,” said Becker. Tax collection in the area, he said, is actually up by about 6 percent over the previous year.
“I’m very happy to report that,” said Becker.
Chris Brown – City Engineer
The Arkansas 265 widening project, from Mission Blvd. north to the city limits, is close to beginning construction. Brown said the widening would be split into two parts and should take about three years to complete.
Once finished, Arkansas 265 will be a four-lane, boulevard highway with bike lanes and median breaks at major intersections.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Brown. “We’re very interested to see that project move forward.”
Byron Humphry – Parks Maintenance Superintendent
A few of the parks projects Humphry said are beginning soon include:
- A 24-space parking lot at Bryce Davis Park
- A 300-tree planting project in the Copper Creek subdivision and Kantz Place neighborhoods
- New swings at the north shore of Lake Fayetteville Park
- New swings at Wilson Park
- A new boat ramp at Lake Sequoyah
- New baseball dugouts and bleacher covers at Walker Park
- Lights of the Ozarks lights on the square
Terry Gulley – Transportation Services Director
Terry Gulley said paid parking in the Dickson Street area has brought in about $40,000 more than expected. With 400,640 transactions taking place over the past year, the total haul comes to $904,000 after sales tax.
Gulley also said the highly unpopular policy of forcing renters in the paid parking district to renew their residential parking passes on a quarterly basis is coming to an end. Beginning January 2012, renters will only need to renew twice per year.
Gulley also gave an overview of drainage problems his department has been addressing in the past few months. He said 117 out of 239 service requests – some big, some small – are now complete. The remaining 92 projects should be complete by the end of September.
Julie McQuade – Community Outreach Coordinator
Julie McQuade encouraged those in attendance to check out the newly unveiled Community Link social networking site.
Chad Ball – Community Services Coordinator
Chad Ball encouraged people to attend Fest of All, an event designed to promote diversity and inclusion, this Thursday evening on the Fayetteville square.
Cory Whorton – Office Manager, Development Services
According to Whorton, 674 businesses have registered for the city’s new business license program since registration began Aug. 1. Whorton said he’s been receiving between 30 and 40 applications per day. At that rate, the city just might reach its goal of 2,000 to 3,000 applications before the Oct. 31 deadline.
NWAOnline’s Joel Walsh was also at the meeting and has a story in today’s newspaper.