Editor’s note: Story and headline updated to reflect that the vote is to direct the 2-cent hotel tax is already in place to pay for the mentioned facility improvements.
To kick off early voting, supporters for the upcoming Little Rock election are encouraging Little Rock residents to get out and vote yes on the bond issue benefiting the Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, and MacArthur Park.
The vote would allow the 2-cent tax on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts approved by the city board to be paid by bond issue. That would bring the hotel tax rate in Little Rock up from 13% to 15%. Proceeds of the increase are expected to raise approximately $37.5 million to for improvements for the two museums and park. Supporters say, if approved, a private capital campaign will match the tax dollars.
“I think you have to have arts and history facilities for all of our citizens, plus for visitors as well,” said Gary Smith, chair of the Committee for Arts and History, the group supporting the bond issue. “You have to have something to offer.”
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.
The election is Feb. 9 at usual polling places. Early voting is Feb. 2-8 in downtown Little Rock at the Pulaski County Regional Building across from City Hall.
In November, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotions Commission voted to approve the measure and sent it to the City Board for its approval. In December, the City Board sent the measure to voters to approve the bonds.
While some hoteliers have grumbled privately about the potential tax increase, there has been no formal opposition mounted to the tax.