- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Benton County voters have rejected a sales tax hike that would have funded a new courthouse and the renovation of the current court building.

Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said the 0.125 percent sales tax increase would have funded the construction of a $30 million, 87,000-square-foot (8,100-square-meter) courthouse.

“I am disappointed, but I respect the vote and the outcome,” Moehring said. “To a great degree, we are back to square one. This is still a problem that has to be solved.”

Under the proposed 54-month tax increase, county courts would have been consolidated under one roof, making court visits more convenient and safe. The plan was for a courthouse building with one secure public entrance with a metal detector.

The county also proposed spending another $5 million to upgrade the downtown courthouse, including the courtroom on the third floor. The court building was constructed in 1928.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s poll showed 62 percent of voters oppose the proposal versus 38 percent who approve, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Turnout was 6 percent of 161,802 registered voters.

The results will be verified March 22.

Michael Kalagias, president of the Libertarian Party, said the county wanted to make a statement by building a grand facility. He called it a “monument piece” in meetings prior to the election.

“I was against the tax increase,” Kalagias said. “It’s not needed. We could do it out of reserves. I’ve said that all along. I was encouraged by the numbers. I didn’t think it would be that big of a margin.”


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com

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