Trumann election for municipal improvements is Tuesday

Monday, August 10, 2015

This Tuesday, Aug. 11, a special election will be held in Trumann where voters will get the chance to decide a bond issue which could generate around $2 million to be used for capital improvements.

There will be 11 items on the ballot. The first two items are for refinancing current outstanding bonds at a lower interest rate and extending the related one cent sales tax for four years. If it passes, the interest rate on the bonds would go from 3.6 percent to 2 percent. The sales tax, which has been around for several years and was last renewed in 2008 for 20 years, has an expiration date of 2028. This vote would extend that to 2032. Passing these two items, which would not result in a tax increase, would result in $2 million for capital improvements. The capital improvements this money would be used for are listed in the other nine items on the ballot. Only a "yes" vote on all 11 items would generate the money needed and approve the capital improvements to the water system, sewer system, police department, streets, flood control and drainage systems, library, parks, and city administration building.

Mayor Barbara Lewallen said the economic climate is right for this vote, and the opportunity to drop the interest rate on the bonds this much may not come again for a while. "It's like refinancing a house at a better interest rate," Mayor Lewallen said. "The good news is we don't have to increase the sales tax. All we have to do is extend it four years.

"The Budget Committee and the City Council feel the economic climate is very good," Lewallen said. "We feel like this opportunity may not happen again, and now is the right time. If we put it off, we might not get the same interest rate and may have to extend the tax for longer."

The Trumann Chamber of Commerce also supports voting yes in the election. Neal Vickers, Executive Director for the chamber, said, "To me it's a no-brainer. She [Mayor Lewallen] is not asking for a sales tax increase, just to keep the tax we have for four more years to make improvements everyone's asking for."

Lewallen said the reason cities do these bond issue votes is because they often do not have the funds in the normal budget for major capital improvements. Bond issues like the one up for vote Tuesday allow a city to get a large amount of money in the budget at one time to do major improvements. "It benefits everybody," Lewallen said.

The capital improvements proposed using the $2 million generated by the vote include:

*$375,000 for water improvements and $295,000 for sewer improvements. This includes major work on one of the water towers and getting water and sewer lines to the west side of Highway 63. Lewallen said extending water lines to the other side of the highway is economic development that is "critical to our city. There's a great deal of interest in property to the east and west of the highway. Businesses generate revenue, and we can use the revenue to benefit the whole city, not just part of it."

*$470,000 for police improvements. The police station was built in the early 1970s and houses the jail and court. The building needs maintenance, and the police will get money for equipment, including adding to their fleet of vehicles. Many of Trumann's police vehicles have over 100,000 miles on them. Adding vehicles to the fleet will help them last longer and relieve some strain on the budget.

*820,000 for street improvements. This includes a new storage facility and equipment for the street department and resurfacing streets. Lewallen said $500,000 would be used to resurface streets in as many neighborhoods as possible all over town.

*$55,000 for drainage improvements, including equipment to maintain drainage ditches and fencing to complete the west side of the fence around the detention pond.

*$125,000 for fire improvements. This will be used for equipment and to construct a storage building for fire equipment used in emergency rescue situations.

*$55,000 for library improvements. This will be used for a new roof, work on interior damage caused by leaks, and other maintenance.

*$80,000 for park improvements for the city's five parks and sports complexes. This includes picnic tables, playground equipment, upgrades and maintenance to sports fields. Lewallen said the city plans to renovate and reopen Cedar Park Ball Field and dedicate it for tee ball and coach pitch.

*$55,000 for administration building improvements. Lewallen said they want to update the building as it is the face of the city and very dated.

Lewallen said the money generated by this vote would take the strain off the city's normal budget and free the city administration to do other things that need to be done. "We all feel this will be a good opportunity for the city to improve itself without raising taxes," Lewallen said. "This tax is not new. We're just using a tax already in place to better advantage. This is making good use of a current tax with very little extension. We see it as a win-win situation and hope the community sees it the same way."

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