I previously posted about my visit with Mayor Morris regarding the Searcy budget, reforms that have been implemented and more reforms that are coming. During that same meeting, we also discussed the road tax that the city council passed last week.
Some of my concerns about the proposal that the council passed:
- There is no ‘sunrise’ clause & I still believe this is an incredibly bad time to raise taxes. Such a clause would have allowed the economy more time to recover, with the tax not going into effect until January 2013.
- The issue is going to be placed at a special election two weeks before Christmas which will mean low turnout and extra cost to the taxpayers to produce the election.
- I am also skeptical that the money will all actually be spent on roads–at least not roads that are directly connected to the bypass. I told the mayor I trust him, but he does not control the purse strings. I do not trust the people who do.
The mayor assured me, and the people of Searcy, that he is going to personally oversee that every penny of the road tax money is spent appropriately. I gave him a few suggestions about how he can convince people he means business about this, including setting up a website “SearcyStreets.com” (or something similar) that will show how every penny is spent.
He also shared my concerns about the special election, but said it is necessary to do this before the first of the year to show a commitment to the highway department, allowing the Searcy project to move up their project docket.
Regarding my suggestion to delay implementation or ‘sunrise’ the tax, the mayor said he is concerned that the economy will actually be worse in January 2013 than it is now and believes we need to start the arterial projects as soon as possible.
Regarding suggestions he received to call two special elections, one for the bypass and one for the arterial improvements, the mayor said having one election will save the taxpayers money and we need to get started on the arterial projects right away so they can be completed by the time the bypass opens.
Regarding suggestions that the city ‘find the money in the current budget’ to fund the $3 million for the bypass matching funds, the mayor said that would be possible, “if we closed the fire department.” The city budget is currently just over $14.2 million and he says they need $7 million, not just $3 million, to fund the bypass and the arterial improvements.
I asked the mayor directly if the city has any plans to promote the tax. He said that he plans to speak publicly in support of the plan, but guaranteed that no city money nor city employees on city time will be used to promote the tax.
The mayor also said that he fully believes in an open door policy and he is more than willing to sit down face-to-face with any Searcy citizen to discuss this plan or other city issues.
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