City of Jonesboro answers questions about proposed tax increase

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

"We're not trying to scare people--if people are concerned quite frankly it's because the truth is scary," said City of Jonesboro Operations Director, Gary Harpole.

Harpole says cuts in public safety are all but certain if a proposed half cent sales tax does not get the voters' ok.

"It takes up more than 64 cents of every dollar spent in the unrestricted general fund and so if we have to make cuts--there's no where else to get it," said Harpole.

Public safety is paid for out of the city's general fund.  That fund pays for the day to day operations of the city.  Harpole says for years, more money has gone out of that general fund than has come in.  Harpole says they've been able to pay for that out of excess funds.

"In 2011 those excess revenues are going to run out.   That's why we're facing the issue of having to balance the budget for 2011," said Harpole.

Harpole says there are 40 different revenue accounts for the City of Jonesboro.  Those revenues are distributed into about a dozen different funds--for example the street department, and capital improvements are two of the city's largest funds.  He says almost all of those revenues are restricted for those specific uses and cannot be used for the general operations of the city--like paying for fire or police.

"The street fund just comes from state turn back and county road tax and it can only be used for street projects, engineering things of that nature," said Harpole.

Harpole says through capital improvement dollars and bonds, the city could build police precincts for example like they would to do...

"We don't have the money right now for the officers to be in those and that's the difference in what we're dealing with," said Harpole.

Harpole says currently, police and fire are 100 percent funded out of the general fund.  He says  the proposed tax would generate about 6 million dollars a year.  He says it won't cover all costs--but would certainly help.

"By giving them their own dedicated stream of revenue even though it will cover less than a third of what it takes to operate the departments, it still takes some of the pressure off the general fund so that we can continue to operate," said Harpole.

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