Little Rock residents could be asked to vote on a two-cent increase on the hotel tax in a February special election to fund a reported $60 million in upgrades and expansion to the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Park.
In order for that to happen, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission will consider approving a bond issue Tuesday (Nov. 17) at its regularly scheduled meeting. If approved, it would then be up to the City Board of Directors to call a special election, which would be the second Tuesday in February.
“At the request of Mayor Stodola, the Arkansas Arts Center was asked to prepare a presentation about the history and the needs of the Arkansas Arts Center for the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission meeting on November 17, 2015. The presentation will include some initial concepts on design, not architectural drawings, simply to help show citizens the potential for an improved center and park,” said Todd Herman, executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center in a statement.
Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, the trade group for hotels in the state, learned of the possible tax increase Monday. While AHA is not now taking an official stand, she said her group is concerned any time there is a large jump in a tax rate all at once because “in general, it can put a city at a competitive disadvantage.” She said her members would be watching closely and asking for more information about the proposal.
There are questions about the funding mechanism because MacArthur Park is not a 1,000-acre park, as McNulty and others understood it had to be in order for the A&P to be able to vote on this type of bond issue.
According to Jennifer Godwin, spokesperson for the city of Little Rock, if a city has a park of 1,000 acres or more (which Little Rock does with Fourche Creek), then it can go through this bond issue process because the provision does not specify that the money collected must go to that particular park.