Committees raise more money for city, county tax renewal campaigns

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 35 views 

The group seeking renewal of Fort Smith’s 1% sales tax for street work and a 5% cut of that tax for trail and greenway work raised $5,000 in March to cover campaign costs. A Crawford County group seeking a 1% sales renewal raised just short of $5,000 for its campaign.

Both elections are set for May 12.

Pushing for the Fort Smith tax plan is the “Keep Your Penny Rolling, A Project of Citizens for Continued Progress” committee. Combined with the funds raised prior to March, the committee had a fund balance of $28,186 as of March 31.

Following are the donors in the March report, in the order listed on the report.
River Valley Cycling, $1,000
Oklahoma Gas & Electric, $1,000
Sparks Health System, $1,000
Weather Barr, $500
Township Builders, $1,000
Glenn Yaffe, $500

The committee reported that it spent only $531 in March. Chip Paris, with Fort Smith-based Williams Crawford & Associates, said it is likely that most if not all of the money raised for the campaign will be spent on the effort to win voter approval. Williams Crawford has been hired to manage marketing for the campaign.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved Jan. 20 a May 12 election in which city voters will be asked to vote for renewal of the 1% sales tax for street, bridges and drainage improvements. Part of the ballot will also include a voter question on directing 5% of the tax collections toward the multi-use trail system. A Trails & Greenway Committee developed the plan that seeks to add 35 miles to the city’s trail system. The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Smith Regional Council have endorsed renewal of the tax and the 5% portion for trails and greenways.

The street tax generates $18 million to $20 million each year. The tax, first approved by voters in 1985, has a sunset clause that requires voter approval every 10 years. The tax was renewed by voters in 1995 with 87.2% voting yes, and in 2005 with 66.3% voting yes. A renewal vote is planned for May 12.

TRAIL PLAN OPPOSITION
Jerry Fleming, chairman and spokesman of the “Save Our Streets in Fort Smith” committee opposes the 5% redirection of the street tax. His group hopes to raise $2,500 for a limited campaign using billboards, social media “and a couple of print media ads.” Joining Fleming on the committee officer list are David Armbruster, treasurer, and Donald Dickey, director.

Fleming said he is not against the trail system, but is opposed to the funding mechanism. He said if the 5% plan fails, he wants to work with those he now opposes to find a funding plan.

“If the diversion effort fails, then I am already working on a plan to get that trails system implemented – after this election,” Fleming said in a note to The City Wire. “I will have no problem whatsoever working with those who are now my opponents, to get the trails system implemented. We can work together. This is my promise to my ‘opponents’ as well as my supporters.”

Both sides appear to be active on social media. A Fort Smith Trails and Greenways Facebook page includes several posts about the economic impact of trails. The Save Our Streets Facebook page includes posts arguing that Fort Smith’s infrastructure will suffer if 5% is diverted to trail development and maintenance.

CRAWFORD COUNTY VOTE
The “County-Wide Sales Tax Renewal Committee” in Crawford County collected $4,849 in March, spent no money and ended the reporting period with a $7,899 balance.

Following are the donors in the March report, in the order listed on the report.
APAC Central, $500
Cathy Gifford, $100
Kevin Bell, $200
Joe Morgan, $500
First Bank, $100
Eva White, $100
Rusty Myers, $200
Scott McBrayer, $49
Donna Parker, $100
Steve Forsgren, $500
Todd Green, $250
Jason Myers, $200
Doug (last name unreadable; with Mid-Continent Concrete), $500
Jay White, $1,000
Candice Settle, $50
Fred Williams, $100
Neal Moon, $100

There is no known opposition to the Crawford County tax renewal effort.

The Crawford County sales tax was first approved in 1999 by a narrow margin of 2,571 for and 2,502 against. It was renewed in 2007 by a much wider margin of 3,592 for and just 884 against.

Money from the tax is distributed to cities within the county based on population. Following is the eight-year distribution total to the cities and county.
Alma: $4.09 million
Cedarville: $1.092 million
Chester: $109,040
Dyer: $822,048
Kibler: $832,566
Mountainburg: $572,963
Mulberry: $1.411 million
Rudy: $70,980
Van Buren: $17.758 million
Crawford County: $22.728 million

Link here to see the list of donors in previous reports from the Fort Smith and Crawford County groups.

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