Trumann Council approves special election for sales tax

Friday, May 27, 2016

Trumann voters will be deciding the fate of a new one cent sales tax this fall whose purpose is to generate a source of revenue to fund finance municipal improvements.

Upon the budget committee's recommendation, the Trumann City Council approved two ordinances during a special meeting Tuesday night. The first ordinance calls for a special election to take place on Sept. 13 to decide the question of levying a one cent sales tax. The second ordinance is for levying the tax and will be what voters will see on the ballot in September.

Mayor Barbara Lewallen said the budget committee discussed several much needed improvements as part of the city's long-term planning and how best to fund them. The bond money that was refinanced last year for capital improvements is allocated for certain uses. For other needed improvements, the mayor said another source of revenue is needed. "The budget committed discussed other ways of funding them, but everybody agreed this was the most practical," Mayor Lewallen said.

She said one of the most important things that needs funding is the city's water source. The well is 65 years old, and the Arkansas Department of Health has told the city it must be improved. The estimated cost is $450,000. Another major issue Mayor Lewallen mentioned was the city's aging sewer and water lines, which need continuing repair and improvement. Lewallen mentioned two holes developing recently in the lines on Mulberry Drive and Birch Street, with a third developing. Repairs, which involve digging to lines 8-12 feet deep, get costly. "Water and Sewer has a maintenance fund, but they're not able to put enough in. When we have to do these things, it's big," she said.

Another major item the city needs is a new ladder truck for the fire department. The current ladder truck is from 1970, and is one of the things that gives the city its ISO rating. If the city doesn't have a working ladder truck, it changes the ISO rating, and home insurance rates go up. A used truck is $500,000, and a new one is $750,000.

Derelict property cleanup is another issue that needs a revenue stream. "We need to be able to take care of these issues because investors will buy and develop better property," Lewallen said.

Lewallen said there is not enough in the budget to improve everything that needs work. She said a new sales tax "is not meant to cause hardship. It is to improve services and to maintain services to make our city better. We're grateful for the bond, and we're doing many things with it that are much needed, but it's a one-time thing. We need a revenue stream."

If the sales tax is approved in September, Trumann's tax rate will rise from 8.75 percent to 9.75. For comparison with surrounding cities, current tax rates are: Harrisburg, 9.75 percent; Marked Tree, 9.75 percent; Pocahontas, 9.75 percent; Paragould, 9 percent; Brookland, 10.5 percent; Lepanto, 10 percent; Osceolo, 10 percent; Wynne, 9.5 percent.

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