The following letter was submitted to The Patriot by former White County Judge Bob Parish. Mr. Parish served the people of White County as judge for ten years, garnering nearly 70% of the vote in his last election. In 2006, Parish supported current Judge Mike Lincoln as his successor, but has since withdrawn his support.
This letter was also submitted to the Searcy paper as well as the Bald Knob paper. They have declined to print it.
May 7, 2012
In 1989, White County voters passed a one percent county-wide sales tax. The purpose of the tax was to keep White County offices and services to the county afloat. At that time, all departments were facing a real threat of employees being laid off and services to the county being reduced. There was very little money in the treasury.
On August 8, 1995, the tax was challenged due to allegations of misuse of funds. A lawsuit was filed against White County, which resulted in the tax being struck down by an Arkansas State Supreme Court ruling in 1998.
On June 23, 1998, in a special election, White County voters went to the polls to abolish the original sales tax ordinance and to approve the adoption of a new one percent sales tax within White County. This ordinance remains in effect today.
The ballot sets forth the usage of the county’s portion of the one percent sales tax revenues:
- 50% for county roads
- 25% for county general
- 10% for non-mandated services
- 10% for capital improvements
- 5% for volunteer fire departments
Judge Michael Lincoln has used county road funds for graveling and hard-surfacing city streets, platted sub-divisions, private lanes, and other non-county roads throughout the county. Many of these roads have not been dedicated to the county, nor has a court order been filed regarding the acceptance of dozens of these roads. Two examples include recently opened and paved city streets in Letona, where new housing has been developed; and the Dayton sub-division located near Judsonia. Using county labor, materials, or equipment to build or maintain non-county roads is misuse of county funds and therefore, an illegal exaction. The practice of using county road labor, equipment, or materials on non-county property reduces potential jobs for contractors who may desire to bid on the projects.
In 2003, White County was not allowed to use county funds for the promotion of a one-half percent sales tax to fund the building of a new law enforcement center. Judge Lincoln hired an individual to promote the passage of a one percent sales tax to be used for the Searcy bypass project. This individual is being paid an amount of $2,000.00 per month by the county – another misuse of county funds.
When revenues generated by the sales tax ordinance, which was approved by White County voters, are not used as ear-marked on the ballot, it is an abuse of taxpayers’ money. The misuse of our penny tax this way jeopardizes all 16 incorporated cities and all volunteer fire departments. We stand to lose approximately 10 million dollars per year.
Judge Bob Parish