Editor’s note: Story updated to reflect all precincts reporting.
Little Rock residents approved bonds for a two-cent hotel tax dedicated to improve the Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History and adjacent MacArthur Park.
With all 72 precincts reporting, the measure passed with 6,729 voting for the bonds and 1,256 voting against (84%-16%). Voter turnout was low with just 6.6% of registered voters casting a ballot.
“It’s amazing really that the support is that broad because the vote is across the whole city,” said Gary Smith, Chair of the Committee for Arts and History, the group campaigning for for the bond issue.
In December, the Little Rock Board of Directors voted unanimously for a 2-cent increase for the tax on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts or short-term condominium or apartment rentals in the city. That brought the hotel tax rate in Little Rock up from 13% to 15%.
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.
Residents had to vote 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 for improvements to the Arts Center and MacArthur Museum that representatives say are desperately needed for the institutions to continue.
Smith credited the Arts Center and MacArthur Museum with mobilizing their membership base to get to the polls.
“Both have great constituencies,” he said. “I think it says a lot about our city. People want to support Robinson Center and now Arts Center and MacArthur Museum. People want to have great venues to visit and for our guests to visit.”
In December 2013, voters approved by almost 75% a measure to dedicate the existing 2% A&P tax for the repayment of bonds to fund renovations to Robinson Auditorium.