Little Rock residents will decide in February whether to approve bonds for a two-cent hotel tax dedicated to improve the Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Museum and adjacent MacArthur Park.
Tuesday night (December 1), the Little Rock Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve three ordinances necessary to move the measure forward. The first two ordinances would levy a third and fourth 1% tax on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts or short-term condominium or apartment rentals in the city. That would bring the hotel tax rate in Little Rock up from 13% to 15%.
The third ordinance calls for a special election February 9, 2016 for residents to issue bonds for the tax increase to be spent on improvements to the arts center, museum and park. Proceeds of the increase are expected to raise approximately $37.5 million to for improvements the Arts Center and MacArthur Museum representatives say are desperately needed for the institutions to continue.
If approved, the funds would pay to restore and improve the MacArthur Museum building as well as upgrades to the boiler/chiller system and the sprinkler fire protection system. It would also cover other renovations to other parts of the 175-year-old building which has never seen any significant renovation.
The Arkansas Arts Center would use funds to update the HVAC and storage situation immediately. In addition, the center would improve the children’s theater and art classrooms. It would also rework the exterior space to better integrate MacArthur Park into the campus with a sculpture garden, walking paths and gathering places.
In November, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotions Commission voted to approve the measure and sent it to the City Board for its approval. At that time, Arts Center Executive Director Todd Herman told the commission if the city approved the tax measure, the museum would undertake a private capital campaign to match the tax dollars. No opponents voiced opposition at the City Board meeting.