Trumann mayor discusses importance of sales tax vote for long range planning

Friday, September 9, 2016

With the upcoming special election on Tuesday, Sept. 13, Trumann residents will decide whether or not to pass a one cent sales tax which would fund needed city improvements, the most important of which is a new well. Mayor Barbara Lewallen spoke to the Democrat Tribune this week about the election, saying when she ran for mayor, her campaign was based around developing a long-range plan for the city. Since becoming mayor, she said committees have met to discuss all the issues in the city that need to be addressed as part of a long range plan, and those issues were stated and sent to citizens with the water bills at the end of June.

Mayor Lewallen said some of the issues listed, such as developing a new well and replacing sewer lines, are "critical things we need to address now." Other issues--such as moving to radio-read water meters, going back to using a compactor for more efficient transport of city waste, and expansion of the recreation facilities--can be dealt with over a longer period of time.

"I've lived in this city since 1963," Lewallen said. "When I came to Trumann, there was only one house available to rent and only one active housing development going on in city limits," Lewallen said. "Since then, we've seen quite a few residential developments, the addition of industries and recreational facilities, and we've seen the town begin to expand, particularly to the west. Also, we've seen the construction of new schools and a growth in services and demand for services."

Lewallen said that thanks to voters passing bond issues, the city has been able to do some big projects, but that money can only be used on projects that were approved by the voters, and once the bond money is spent, there is no continuing revenue. "To meet the rising cost of materials and greater demand for maintenance and services, the city needs more revenue," Lewallen said. "This decision was not solely my decision. It was the decision of the budget committee, several other committees, and the city council. We all understand that to both meet growth and encourage growth, we have to do more to maintain infrastructure and improve the city as a whole."

Lewallen said the city is affected by new laws like any business is. "But while a private industry can raise prices and fees, a city is dependant on voters to recognize its needs and vote to provide revenue," she said. "The proposed tax increase will not put the city out of line with sales taxes in other communities and will do a great deal to allow city administrators to work on areas such as improving the ISO rating, infrastructure, and services we provide," Lewallen said. For comparison, Trumann's current tax rate is 8.75 percent. Harrisburg's is 9.75 percent, Pocahontas is 9.75 percent, Paragould is 9 percent, Brookland is 10.5 percent, Lepanto is 10 percent, Osceola is 10 percent, and Wynne is 9.5 percent.

Lewallen said one of the reasons a city proposes a bond issue is because it gives the city large sums of money at one time to do large projects. Some examples of projects bond money is being used for are renovating a water tower (around $300,000), extending sewer lines to the other side of I-555 (around $200,000), and resurfacing streets ($300-350,000). "Those major projects can be taken care of because we have a large sum to pay for them," Lewallen said. "A tax increase allows the city to have a revenue stream to work on lengthy improvements over a period of time such as replacing galvanized pipe in the water distribution system and having a program for cleaning up eyesores on a regular basis."

"We hope our citizens feel the need to work on long range improvements to not only improve the city but improve our image," Lewallen said. "We feel pride in our school facilities, both new and renovated. We want to feel equal pride in the look of the city as a whole. We hope our citizens will support these efforts and vote yes for Trumann."

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