Jonesboro discusses extension of half cent sales tax increase

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro's half cent sales tax increase is set to expire at the end of 2014.

Voters approved the increase back in 2010 to help fund public safety, including the city's fire and police departments.

Mayor Harold Perrin said the tax increase could be a thing of the past come 2015. He and other city officials have been crunching numbers since December, and Mayor Perrin said, for the first time in awhile, the numbers are coming back more positive than negative.

"Back in 2009, we really needed those funds. No doubt about it. The people came forward. We passed that tax," Perrin said.

Four years later, Mayor Perrin said the half cent sales tax increase worked better than he expected. At the time, the city needed the extra funds to keep going. But with Jonesboro's growing economy, Mayor Perrin said the city has been able to extend its operations.

"We've been adding police officers each year since 2010, we've updated equipment," Perrin said. "In the area of quality of life in our code enforcement, I moved that back into the police department for a reason. Last year we tore down 60 something homes and that's amazing in a town this size."

Mayor Perrin said your extra tax dollars also got the city's budget back on track.

"We were very fortunate," Perrin said. "We've been blessed in this community that we were able to be very tight on our budgets and build up some reserves in that."

Mayor Perrin said the city now has enough money to ask for less tax dollars.

"We do have some large payments that will come off in 2016 so if we don't extend the tax, 2015 and 2016 will be pretty tight on us. But we can live with that," Perrin said.

Mayor Perrin said if the city would choose to extend the tax increase, it would look different.

"It would be job specific or project specific," Perrin said. "In other words, we would look and say, 'Okay. We have various infrastructure things,' and we would never go to the public until we knew exactly what they are, what it cost, how long it would take to pay for them. And then we would ask the people to vote on that."

Mayor Perrin reiterated he is leaning toward not extending the public safety sales tax increase. Perrin said tax payers will know more in about 60 days when city officials are finished crunching numbers.

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