Group forms to vote down Sharp Co. hospital sales tax proposal - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Group forms to vote down Sharp Co. hospital sales tax proposal

CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) – Voters will decide if Sharp County gets a new hospital in just 41 days.

The county will hold a special election for a 1.5-percent sales tax that would fund construction and operations of a new hospital if it's approved.

Supporters have pushed this issue so that the county could attract industry and create more health care options closer to home. However, not everyone is convinced.

An organized opposition group has formed, of course calling for no new taxes. In addition to that, though, the group wonders if a new hospital is a worthwhile investment given that there's another health care project that would cost nothing to taxpayers.

Mike Clark, a Cave City resident, helped start the group called Sharp County Citizens for Responsible Government, which is now trying to convince people not to vote for the proposed hospital sales tax.

"I'm definitely not a Tea Party person," Clark said, "but my father raised me to live within a budget, and I'm saying it's out of our budget county-wise to pass a 1.5-percent sales tax."

Clark is against the proposed sales tax that, if approved, would let Sharp County build and then run a new hospital. The Sharp County Hospital Foundation, a group supporting the project, said that if the sales tax passes, the hospital would be approximately 40,000 square feet in size and cost somewhere around $12 million to build.

In November, when Region 8 News first reported that the Sharp County quorum court agreed to hold a special election for the sales tax, many residents said they not only wanted a new hospital but would not mind paying higher taxes to get one. Clark said more support for the project exists in the northern part of the county, but not in his neck of the woods.

"We feel like not only Sharp County but especially southern Sharp County – if the tax were to pass – would not be served under this," he said. "In southern Sharp County, I've yet to talk with a single soul that has been for the hospital or for the tax."

Clark said he and his group oppose the project for a number of reasons, including what he said is a lack of transparency. He said he is also concerned that building and running a hospital would be too much of a risk for the county financially.

"That's the last thing that we need to do is to pass a 1.5-percent sales tax and be stuck with it forever, and then the hospital fail," he said.

He also wonders why the county would pursue a new hospital when he claims there is another alternative in the works that would cost taxpayers nothing. White River Medical Center announced that it plans to turn its urgent care clinic in Cherokee Village into a 24-hour emergency room this spring.

Some may accuse Clark and his group of being a mouthpiece for the medical center since its project would compete with the proposed hospital. Clark, however, said that his group has no ties to the medical center, adding that he just wants to keep taxes low and spending to a minimum.

"Please get out and vote," he urged. "That's the only way that the people are going to be heard is with their vote."

Sharp County will hold a special election on the hospital sales tax on March 11.

If anyone is curious to see how much of their money goes to city, county and state sales tax, click here.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration also has a list of the city and county sales and use taxes throughout the state. That information can be found here.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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