Jonesboro voters reject sales tax increase proposal by a wide margin

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 192 views 

A proposed one-cent sales tax went down to defeat Tuesday (Nov. 10) as supporters and opponents made their cases in the hours leading up to the vote.

In unofficial numbers, the tax, which was in two questions, failed by a 60-40 margin.

A 7/8 percent tax failed 3,968 to 2,709 (59-41%) while the 1/8 percent tax failed 4,143 to 2,526 (62-38%), Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday said.

Supporters hosted a series of public meetings in the past few months to build support for the tax. However, opponents have stressed that the combined state, county and city sales tax in Jonesboro would reach 9.5%, putting pressure on family budgets and compliance problems for businesses.

Under the proposal, seven eighths of the proceeds from the tax would go to roads, bridges and infrastructure needs while one eighth would go toward creating an economic development corporation in Jonesboro. The tax, which would bring in $140 million over a 10-year period, would expire in spring 2026.

The early voting and absentee results were released about 7:40 pm Tuesday. On the seven-eighths vote, the vote failed by a 2,463-1,569 margin (61 to 39%) while the one-eighth failed 2,557-1,472 (63-37%).

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin was circumspect about the votes’ failure with voters.

“The people spoke, but as your mayor, you have to look at vision,” Perrin said during a press conference at the Craighead County Election Annex.

Perrin said residents in Jonesboro are resilient and will work together on a solution to the issue. City officials now head back to the drawing board and will spend Wednesday, going over the 2016 budget. Perrin said city officials will do what they can on funding projects, especially a proposed overpass across Ark. 18.

David Ray, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said the vote Tuesday sent a clear message.

“The voters of Jonesboro sent a clear signal that they are taxed enough already,” Ray said. “The people in Arkansas already face a high burden in sales, income and gas taxes.”

Ray said his group focused on the grassroots by working nearly six weeks on the Jonesboro vote, canvassing neighborhoods and talking with voters.

A group that sought the passage of the sales tax raised $54,600 in the weeks leading up to the election. According to the report filed by Progress for Jonesboro, the group spent $46,484.67 between Oct. 1 and 31.

Major contributors to the group were Engines, Inc. of Jonesboro, which gave $7,000 on Oct. 23; St. Bernard’s Healthcare and Riceland Foods, which gave $5,000 on Oct. 23; Hytrol Conveyor Co., which gave $5,000 on Oct. 27; and BNSF Railway Co. of Fort Worth, Tex., which gave $2,500 on Oct. 23.

The group also received a $25,000 loan from First National Bank in Jonesboro on Oct. 29.

The main expenses were Mail Master of Jonesboro, for direct mail on Oct. 30 for $7,723.69; and Opinion Research of Little Rock for $5,500 on Oct. 29 for a tracking poll on the issue.

The election will be certified Nov. 20 at noon at the Election Annex on Jefferson Avenue.