Voters in Paris will go to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 13 to decide the fate of a one percent sales tax increase. Part of the proceeds will be used to fund improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems, according to Mayor Daniel Rogers.
Balloting will take place from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the First National Bank Community Center. Logan County Clerk Peggy Fitzjurls is predicting that 30 percent of the city’s 1,869 registered voters, which is 560 voters, will cast ballots.
"I haven’t seen an increase in people registering to vote and I haven’t even had a phone call requesting an absentee ballot," Fitzjurls said.
The proposed tax increase has generated little debate and there is no organized opposition.
If the tax is approved, the city sales tax would increase to 9 percent, up from 8 percent, when including sales taxes levied by the county and the state. Arkansas has a half-percent tax for highway repairs that voters approved in November. The city also levies a half-percent sales tax, which goes to Mercy Hospital in Paris.
Also, approval of the sales tax increase will mean the elimination of the $12 monthly ($144 annually) fee for trash pick up in the city.
If approved, the increase will take effect in January.
The tax increase is estimated to bring in about $500,000 annually. Of that, $200,000 will be used to cover the cost of trash pick up with the remaining $300,000 annually used to finance a bond issue to pay for improvements.
Last week, Rogers said he has been going door-to-door to discuss the tax increase and improvements with city residents. Rogers also hosted a town meeting after Monday’s City Council meeting.
"I’ve mainly been giving people information about what this will do for the city if it passes," he said. "It gives us the option to improve our infrastructure in a way that, in some cases, won’t cost residents anything. That’s because of the elimination of the trash collection fee. It saves residents $144 a year. They’d have to spend $14,400 a year on items subject to the sales tax in Paris before the tax increase costs them any additional money."
Rogers added that the infrastructure improvement need to be done because "we have an old system with a lot of needs."
Even though, if the tax passes, residents will not be paying for trash pick up, trash will still be collected by the city.
"Residents will still receive the same level of service in residential trash pick up," he said. "They’re still paying for sanitation, but are just paying for it through the sales tax."
In the event the tax is rejected, Rogers said the only other option would be to directly bill more to the residents through water and sewage bills.
"The reason we have such a low sales tax is because our electricity, water and sewer bring in enough money to subsidize our general fund," Rogers explained. "If we had a sales tax for our general fund, we wouldn’t even need this tax. This would bring in that without raising rates."
Rogers said the tax will be a positive investment for the city’s future and will save taxpayers money.
"If people want to see water and sewer lines improve so that we don’t have to take out major debt and increases in the future, then we need to start now," Rogers said. "This tax affects the city residents very little and they get free trash."
Officials are optimistic that the tax will be approved.
"People seem receptive to the idea," Rogers said. "There’s no extra burden to the residents and it helps the city."