County to decide fate of fire sales tax vote

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The amount of sales tax paid by people in Independence County could be higher after Election Day.

Voters will decide whether or not to approve a special use tax to provide additional funding to all the county's fire departments.

The proposed tax calls for a one-half of one percent increase for five years, which will then reduce to a permanent one-quarter of one percent hike after that period.

Brent Gleghorn, the Batesville fire chief, supports the tax because he says it will improve fire protection around the county.

"The money will be divided equally amongst all the county fire departments," Gleghorn said, "with two fire departments that serve a portion of the county receiving portion shares, not complete shares."

Batesville, Bethesda, Charlotte, Cord, Cushman, Desha, Floral, Northside, Newark, Oil Trough, Pleasant Plains, Ruddell Hill, Southside, Sulphur Rock and Union Hill-Thida shall each receive equal shares.

Cave City will receive one-fourth share, while Saffell will get one-sixteenth of the share.

If voters approve the tax, the money will go toward projects like updating older equipment, improving facilities and securing more training.

Gleghorn says these projects can contribute to lower Insurance Service Office (ISO) ratings throughout the county, which could help reduce people's insurance payments on their homes.

The request, however, comes months after voters approved an additional one-cent sales tax increase to benefit new recreational facilities and other projects in Batesville, including allocating funds for public safety.

"Anytime there's been a tax passed, it hinders everything," said Gleghorn, responding to a question about whether the sales tax increase passed earlier this year will hurt this latest effort.

Anti-tax sentiment prompted some voters, including Pat Sutton of Batesville, to vote against the issue.

"I think at this time of the year and the economy the way it is that it'd be hard for everybody to pay more taxes," Sutton said. "It seems like we're taxed to death."

New taxes, though, are less of a concern for other voters, like Mary Miller.

"I did vote 'yes' on it," Miller said, "because these fire departments in the county sometimes have trouble with enough money, and they want to have as high a rating as they can."

The fire departments will learn the fate of the proposal sales tax increase on November 6, Election Day.

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