Craighead County justices vote no on sales tax distribution change

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 68 views 

Craighead County justices on Monday debated changing the formula by which sales tax revenues are distributed. However, the debate, which started on county roads, quickly went into the county budget as justices narrowly voted against the measure.

Justices voted 7-5 against an ordinance, sponsored by Justice Josh Longmire, R-Jonesboro. The ordinance would have changed the way monies are distributed to different budget items.

Now, 60% of a state one-cent sales tax on roads is sent to the county road department with 40% going into county general fund. The tax brings in about $3.3 million a year, county officials said at the meeting.

Longmire’s proposal, which was approved by the finance committee Jan. 11, would have sent 40% to county general, 40% to the road department and 20% to capital improvements.

According to the ordinance, the road department funding brings in about $768,000 a year. Also, the ordinance would allow the 40/40/20 split to remain in place through May 2023 and “shall be available for use to the Road Department and County General Funds at the discretion of the Quorum Court.”

Longmire, who chairs the county’s finance committee, said in his ordinance that he felt the change was needed.

“It has come to the attention of the Finance Committee that a shift in the sales tax could be considered for the duration of the reception of Ballot Issue Number 1 to rebuild the depletions of the capital fund while remaining revenue neutral for the County Road Department and that the new split could be revisited at the expiration of said reception of funds,” the ordinance from Longmire read. Longmire said the county’s capital improvement fund has dropped from $2.8 million in late 2008 to $1.9 million late last year, due to spending on several projects including the Bono Lake project.

Those opposed to the plan said the funding was needed to protect road department funding in light of bad weather including flooding and recent snow fall.

“The west end of our county is in severe need of repair,” Justice Ray Kidd, D-Jonesboro, said. “Our equipment is now in good shape.”

Longmire countered that the road department was $600,000 under budget last year and that spending in the general fund was depleted due to the Bono Lake project.

Justice Garry Meadows, R-Jonesboro, said the county road department and County Judge Ed Hill have done a “good job” on roads. However, Meadows, who is seeking the Republican nod for County Judge along with Jonesboro 911 Director Jeff Presley, said he thought using the road department budget as a carryover account was “inappropriate.”

However, Kidd argued the money should go to roads.

“Taxpayers pay to take and use the roads, not putting money into a savings account,” Kidd said.

Hill said he also opposed moving the money “big time.”

Voting in favor of the change were Longmire, Meadows and Justices Billie Sue Hoggard, R-Jonesboro, Barbara Weinstock, I-Jonesboro and Richard Rogers, R-Jonesboro.

Voting no were Kidd and justices Terry Couch, R-Caraway, Fred Bowers, D-Jonesboro, Steve Cline, R-Jonesboro, David Tennison, R-Jonesboro, Jim Bryant, D-Jonesboro and Max Render, D-Jonesboro.

Justice Ken Stacks, I-Jonesboro, was absent.

Justices also voted to approve a 3-year appointment for Rick Stripling to serve on the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. Stripling, whose term ends Jan. 25, 2019, will replace Kim Schrantz, who resigned earlier this month.