People may pay more for drinks outside Batesville

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Batesville residents hoping to avoid paying an alcohol tax inside city limits may soon be out of luck.

The Independence County Quorum Court has cleared the way to extend a five percent tax on alcoholic beverages.

The measure would affect only a handful of private clubs, but quorum court members say it would benefit public safety.

The county would like to add two new police officers, so the quorum court decided several months ago that a five percent alcohol tax would provide enough money to fill out the Independence County Sheriff's Office.

Members initially wanted to put the tax on the ballot in November, but on Monday, they decided to make the decision all on their own.

"Their fear (Monday) night was that if they put on a tax on the ballot that people could impact other taxes," said Robert Griffin, the Independence County judge, "voting against them that might not otherwise."

The other tax on the ballot this November is one for local firefighters. To not put their ballot issue in jeopardy, the quorum court will independently decide whether people's next bottle of beer will cost a little extra.

If approved the tax would only affect three private clubs outside the Batesville city limits.

"The White River Country Club in Southside is one," Griffin said. "The Moose Lodge is another, and the American Legion are the three (private clubs) that we have out in the county outside the city limits."

The City of Batesville bypassed the ballot and approved an alcohol tax late last year. Since January, the city has collected $13,746.89. This money will also help pay for public safety projects, and Griffin says it makes sense.

"Tremendous law enforcement needs are centered around alcohol-related activities," he said.

"They estimate as many as 50 percent of our domestic violence cases are centered around alcohol, so with the increased need for law enforcement centered around the source, then taxing that source would be a reasonable thing to do."

Griffin says the quorum court will likely pass the tax at its next meeting on August 10. If the tax is approved, the county can begin collecting revenue as early as October.

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