Jonesboro voters will head to the polls this fall to decide the fate of a proposed one-cent sales tax that supporters say will meet key infrastructure needs and economic development.
Council members approved by a voice vote the proposal, which will be decided by voters on Nov. 10. Under the proposal, seven-eighths of one cent will be spent on roads, construction and overpasses in Jonesboro while the remaining one-eighth will go toward economic development.
The tax, which would expire in 2026, would bring in roughly $15.5 million a year, with $14.1 million going toward roads and the rest being spent on economic development, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin said Tuesday.
The city has an 8.5% state, county and city combined sales tax. Council members approved the first two readings on Aug. 18 and Sept. 1, setting up the special meeting Tuesday night.
Perrin said officials are seeking the tax, especially the road part, due to growth in the city. City officials have been working in recent months to come up with a list of needed projects.
At the Sept. 1 meeting, Perrin said there were roughly 20 projects, totaling $187 million that need work.
At the meeting Tuesday, Perrin said one area that needs help is Red Wolf Boulevard. The road, which runs east of the ASU campus, was designed for 30,000 vehicles a day. However, the road typically has 41,000 vehicles traveling on it every day. Officials expect the growth to continue at about a 3 to 4% increase per year, Perrin said, noting the revenue that would be raised would help the city become eligible for state and federal matching funds.
However, a man who attended the meeting said he believes the proposal may fall flat with voters. “You are going to have a tough job selling it,” Phillip Cook of Jonesboro said, citing a lack of information presented to voters so far.
After the meeting, Perrin countered that he plans to make the case for the tax and that much of the criticism about the proposal in the public and media has stemmed around work that would be done at the corner of Ark. 351 and U.S. 49. The area is the site of the Greensborough Village economic development project. Under the proposal, a 200-acre retail and residential site would be built in the area with nearly 2,000 people living there.
Perrin said there are three different drawings of road work to be done and that nothing was set in stone. Also, state highway officials would make the final decision as to which proposal to go with, Perrin said.
Under the economic development part of the portion, the Jonesboro Economic Development Corporation would be created with a seven-member board. The board would be appointed by the mayor, with confirmation being done by the council.
Perrin said the city currently has 700 acres of land set aside for economic development. However, a large section of the land is divided by a ditch, making the land land-locked. A key part of the proposal would allow the corporation to buy land for economic development projects. Perrin said most areas have to have land access, water and sewer as well as fiber optics before a prospective developer will even consider the land.
Perrin said he will contact the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, the Department of Finance and Administration and the Craighead County Clerk’s office Wednesday to notify them of the vote.
The next several months will involve a series of meetings with residents in Jonesboro on the proposal. Perrin said he would not tell residents how to vote on the issue, but will provide information to them on the growing needs.
“The citizens will have to make the decision,” Perrin said.
Council members also approved a resolution to accept a $386,042 grant to rehab a taxiway at Jonesboro Regional Airport. The grant is part of a $406,360 project done with funds from the city, Federal Aviation Administration and the Arkansas Aeronautics Commission.