- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Leaders in Jonesboro are debating whether to ask voters to renew the city’s half-cent public safety sales tax, initially passed to avoid layoffs in the police and fire departments during the economic downturn, or let it expire at the end of the year.

The four-year-old tax, which brings in about $7.3 million per year, is set to expire at the end of 2014. Mayor Harold Perrin said he plans to meet with various groups soon to discuss whether the tax should be renewed or allowed to expire.

Perrin told The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1fdnlX8 ) that he’d prefer to ask voters for more flexibility in how the city’s permanent 1-cent sales tax is spent, rather than ask for an extension of the public safety tax. Half of the proceeds of the permanent sales tax, approved by voters in 2000, must fund capital improvements, according to city ordinance.

During the past four years, the city has completed several capital projects, including the Municipal Center, five fire stations and new headquarters for the street and sanitation departments. And this year, the city’s police department will move into a former U.S. Army Reserve Center and the final fire station in the city’s five-year plan will be built.

“Our capital needs have mostly been met,” Perrin said.

The mayor said the city could manage without the separate public safety tax - if the current permanent tax is reworked to allow more flexibility in how the proceeds are used.

“Taking the handcuffs off that revenue would allow us to continue funding public safety services at current levels without having to cut anywhere else,” Perrin said. “And we should still have as much as $3 million a year that could be spent on capital improvements, if needed.”

Perrin said he’d request a special election for Sept. 16 - the same day as school elections - if the city decides to ask voters to rework the permanent sales tax.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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