In three identical 11-1 votes Tuesday night (July 2), the Jonesboro City Council approved a series of ordinances proposed by Team Jonesboro, a citizens group that says its 12-year, one percent sales tax plan will improve the community’s safety and quality of life.
The ordinances proposed by Team Jonesboro and approved by the council call for the creation of an “oversight integrity council” that will hold regular public meetings to develop plans, vet projects, recommend funding for projects and publish financial reports.
The second ordinance calls for a special election on Sept. 10 for the citizens to vote on whether to approve the one percent sales tax increase and the third ordinance would levy the temporary tax for 12 years.
The sales tax is expected to raise approximately $18 million annually.
Half of the money raised would be dedicated to “capital improvements for the city’s police and fire departments, maintenance and staffing and the other half would be dedicated to capital improvements for quality of life amenities.” The ordinance mentions “arts, aquatics, beautification, libraries, museums, park facilities, recreational facilities, sidewalks and trail systems” and the staffing and maintenance of those facilities.
Team Jonesboro leaders have said that quality of life amenities are needed in Jonesboro to stop the “brain drain” of recent college graduates and young professionals who relocate to other cities, particularly those in Northwest Arkansas.
Before the vote to set the special election, Team Jonesboro chairman Scott McDaniel told the council “you have a roomful of people” interested in the proposal. At present, McDaniel said, “This is the biggest news in Jonesboro” but delaying the vote until the March 2020 primary would result in the matter getting lost in coverage of “the Trump primary.”
He also said splitting the proposal into two elections — one for police and fire capital improvements and the other for quality of life — is not a good alternative.
“You can’t separate quality of life from public safety,” McDaniel told the city council.
Though Team Jonesboro brought the proposal to the city council, councilman Bobby Long, who cast the lone “no” vote on the three measures, said that “after tonight, this ordinance is no longer (Team Jonesboro’s) ordinance, it’s the council’s. Will we want to own this if we break ground on a bunch of non-essential amenities and we still need a fire station or two?” Long said.
Long, who is running for the Republican nomination for the House District 53 seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, said that when he asks questions, it’s not to be a pain, it’s because he’s getting phone calls, texts, and emails from constituents who want him to ask questions.