- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s decision blocking a sales-tax election to raise funds to build a new courthouse in Mississippi County, calling the proposed tax an “illegal exaction.”

The Thursday ruling ends a fight that started last summer, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2mOe1BF ) reported.

County officials called for a half-percent countywide sales tax to build a facility to replace deteriorating courthouses in Blytheville and Osceola.

In his ruling opinion, Justice Robin Wynne cited an act, which established the boundaries of the Chickasawba District and the Osceola District in Mississippi County provided they operate separately “as if they were circuit and chancery courts of different counties.”

Wynne said the tax would’ve allowed the use of tax revenue form the Osceola District for the exclusive benefit of the Chickasawba District.

“This would constitute an illegal exaction,” he said.

Osceola residents filed a lawsuit, arguing the tax would’ve been unconstitutional because it would fund a courthouse outside their district. The estimated cost for the new courthouse in Blytheville would’ve cost about $22.5 million.

“The city of Osceola is very happy,” said Bart Calhoun, a Little Rock attorney who represents the Osceola residents. “We saw what the county was doing. They were going to tax the entire county and pay for something only one judicial district could use.”

Randy Carney, county judge for Mississippi County, said it will cost at least $60,000 to repair the heating system at Osceola’s courthouse and more than $300,000 to replace the Blytheville courthouse’s leaking roof.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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