BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) – City and county officials in Mississippi County are trying to find ways to pay down a reported $3.2 million debt to the IRS in payroll taxes. According to Blytheville Mayor James Sanders, the IRS claims the city has not paid payroll taxes in quite some time. He received the visit in March.
"This is a looming debt, but we're going to overcome it. There's too many good things going on right now. We see people coming together, working together," said Sanders. "They're wanting to know how it happened, what happened to the money, what procedures were there and in place, and that's one of the reasons why I'm constantly talking with the media to tell them what we know."
In a previous interview with Region 8 News, Sanders said he was reviewing an option for a 15-month temporary sales tax.
"You have to consider the fact that if the IRS makes the comment and they say this, we're in debt and we have to do something to get our way out of it, and that was one of the reasons why we imposed the time limits because we want to bring it all to the table," said Sanders.
Sanders said the fact the city lost population over the last ten years doesn't help in trying to pay down the debt.
"We lost state turnback funds and because of that, that too puts a little pressure on the situation, and we learned that a little bit after learning about the tax debt," said Sanders.
Since the IRS visit, city officials have given the mayor and city attorney the authority to review all possible options.
"We have to readjust things, look at them, handle them the best we can. work with what you have and just try to keep your head up and try to move forward and come up with solutions," said Sanders. "While we're working on trying to eliminate that existing debt, we still got to stay focused on the issues and focused on where we want to go."
Another option Sanders discussed Wednesday was the possible sale of approximately 700 acres of farmland.
"One of the things was about our farmland. We may have some agricultural property that was for sale, and to look at that and see how much that would generate, how much revenue that could generate that we could apply that to that bill," said Sanders. "Cut as much as we possibly can, be good stewards of what we have in our budget and then be able to take that information back to the taxpayers to see how we can do what we can do."
But it's not just the city looking to reduce spending. The Mississippi County Quorum Court has asked department heads to find ways to cut their budget.
"It's not just Mississippi County. It's the global economy. It has impacted the county government all over the place. I met with 6 other county judges this morning. They're all facing the same budgetary problems as we are," said County Judge Randy Carney. "We're not to the point to where we want to fire anybody, but as the natural attrition comes, people retiring, people going to other jobs, then we're going to look real close before we make any rehires."
Carney said while the county has several positives, the quorum court's finance committee has asked department heads to trim their budgets by 45%.
"I think that's, by the projected revenues that we'll be getting next year, so I think that's what it needs to be," said Carney.