Tagged: Bypass tax

Searcy Bypass Tax Passes

Final results for the Searcy bypass tax are in:

  • FOR: 1,531
  • AGAINST: 646

I will have more in the next few days about what this means for Searcy, and some details about a conversation I had with Mayor Morris at the courthouse tonight.

Nic Horton

It’s Tax Election Day in Searcy

Today is decision day on a new 1% tax for Searcy to fund road improvements and a new bypass around the city of Searcy.  Early voting has been underway for the last 6 business days at the county clerk’s office, but today voters should report to their local Searcy precincts for a chance to have their voices heard on the tax.

Voters in Searcy can vote at the following locations:

Ward 1:  Downtown Church of Christ

Ward 2:  West Race Baptist Church

Ward 3:  Carmichael Center

Ward 4:  First Assembly of God

The polls should be open until 7 p.m.

 

Nic Horton

Searcy Tax Early Voting Begins Tomorrow, Getting Thrashed in Online Poll

Early voting on the “Jobs & Roads” tax in Searcy begins tomorrow at the county clerk’s office, 315 N. Spruce in Searcy.

Regular voting will be held next Tuesday, December 13th, at local precincts.

Now, I have often railed against online polls as scientifically inaccurate–except for when I like their outcome.  An online poll hosted by our local news talk station shows the tax currently getting thrashed, with 70% against & only 30% saying they will vote for the tax.

I point this out because the radio station’s online poll correctly predicted the outcome of this past September’s tax election, and the percentages were fairly accurate as well.

It will be interesting to see if this poll will also serve as a barometer, particularly because the advocates of the tax have seen no organized opposition to their tax this time around.

I also know the proponents did a robo-poll two weeks ago.  No word on the results, but there have been a large number of pro-tax signs popping up since.  I suspect they are worried.

And, in case you are wondering, no, I have not received any answers from my questions to the mayor or Searcy chamber chairman about the possible use of taxpayer resources to promote this tax.

Nic Horton

Cost of White County September 13th Special Election: $21,000

I tweeted this weekend that I had learned the cost of the September 13th special election in White County & asked if the local paper would be willing to issue a retraction for the ‘hit-piece’ they ran two days before early voting that tried to portray me as a liar and fabricate a controversy.  Well, I’m still waiting on that retraction, but they did take the bait & go ahead and run a story in tomorrow’s paper that will report the cost of the election as roughly $21,000.  If you are able to login and read the article on their website, you will see they are pretty interested in trying to discredit the election coordinator.  I guess they are trying to save face?

The original ‘controversial’ story misquoted myself & the county election coordinator, attempting to portray us as opponents.  The story tried to make it appear that the coordinator was attacking myself & my group, calling into question our estimates for the cost of the special election.  This was simply not the case.

The paper said the coordinator projected that the election “should cost less than $15,000, adding that she said she thinks the amount will be closer to $8,000.”  So they in turn made a big deal out of my use of a $40,000 estimate that I received from different county officials & printed on our literature.

For the record, once and for all, as I told the editor that day: the $40,000 number came from two county officials whom I trust.  I have no intentions of releasing their names–that is really immaterial to this discussion anyway.  In public comments, I was careful to say that our $40,000 figure was an estimate.  I usually gave a cost range, such as $20,000 to $40,000.  In fact, in an August 24th post here on this site, I used the $15,000 estimate.  These were all estimates.  

I understand that the paper/tax proponents clearly liked the lower estimates.  They wanted to 1. discredit me and 2. show people that the county government wasn’t wasting that much of their money, just a little bit.

The story also tried to highlight fact that I would not tell the editor specifically where my information came from, I guess trying to cast more doubt on the credibility of my information & consequently my organization.  I told him I would not attach names to information that was given to me in private without first asking those officials’ permission.

The moral of this story is two-fold.

First, the paper needs to learn the difference between an estimate and a quote.  If you have ever worked in the service industry, you may have seen this confusion into play there as well.  A lot of customers do not understand the difference.  An estimate is a projection, an educated guess, not a definitive number.  A quote is a guaranteed price, a definitive cost for specific services that is given to a potential customer.  These figures–$20,000, $15,000, $40,000–were all estimates.  

And as I told the editor during that interview–which he neglected to report–no one, not even the election coordinator who was running, knew what the exact cost would be.  You’ll see this reflected in tomorrow’s paper article:  “…those costs were merely estimates, as she did not have any way to predict the exact cost of the election.”  During our conversation, I challenged the editor to call the election coordinator, the judge, the JPs, and ask them what the exact cost would be.  I knew he was going to make a big deal out of the $40,000 and I wanted to emphasize to him that it was an estimate, and no one knew the exact cost.  I suspect those calls were not made.

The second moral of this story:  the local paper is more interested in creating controversy than reporting the truth.

Rather than reporting on the ethics violations of the ghost committee, the ethics complaint filed against the county judge, or the promotion of the tax proposal with taxpayer money, they instead tried to manufacture a controversy over a difference in estimates.  

If you’re like me, you’re reading this post and thinking, “this is so stupid.”  It is honestly an insult to the intellectual integrity of this blog that I have to write a story like this to clarify reality for the paper, but that is apparently where we stand.  Their story on September 4th was a distortion of the truth, void of any semblance of journalistic integrity.  They ran the story two days before the start of early voting in a clear attempt to portray me as a liar and influence the outcome of the election.

If this was the first such occurrence, I would obviously be more understanding.  But this has been a pattern for the last several years and it does not seem to be improving.  I know the paper has long controlled the news & political debate in White County.  Those days are over.  If they want to return to relevance, they should consider a return to real reporting & journalistic ethics.

Nic Horton

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  Contact The Patriot at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com  

Discussing the Latest Searcy Tax Proposal with Mayor Morris

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.

Nicholas Horton

The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly.  Contact The Patriot at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com 

 

Discussing the Searcy Budget with Mayor Morris

As I mentioned on my Twitter account, I had a good visit with Searcy Mayor David Morris on Friday morning.  We spent about two hours discussing the tax proposal and the city budget.

Here are some facts that he shared with me:

  • The 2012 budgeting process starts Monday (yesterday) and will be passed in November or December.
  • The budget “cushion”–which he defined as projected revenues minus projected spending–was about 3%-4% for 2011.
  • The mayor wants a 10% budget cushion and promises to achieve this by the end of his first term.
  • Over the past 3 years, the city has been financing a lot of capital:
  1. 15 new police cars in 2009
  2. 5 police cars in 2010
  3. 1 fire engine, priced at $490,000 with approximately 1.7% interest.  This will take 6 years to pay off.
  • They also bought 5 police cars this year, but they were paid in cash.
  • Morris says that the plans for financing these vehicles were put into place by the previous leadership and, in the case of the fire engine, could not be stopped.
  • He promised that he would not finance any more vehicles while he his mayor.
  • Morris also said that the city reduced its employees by ‘3 or 4’ this year and will continue reduce the number of city employees in 2012.
  • The mayor showed me receipts from various city departments, and demonstrated the oversight process that he has implemented, which includes reviewing every receipt of every expense and requiring initials from department heads as well.

As we have been discussing, it is time for real reforms in Searcy government and I am glad to see that Mayor Morris has already started implementing some changes that will help get us where we want to be as a city.  There is still a lot to be done, but these are steps in the right direction.  In tough economic times, everyone has to tighten their belts, and city government is no exception.

I asked the mayor what it will take to have the entire city budget published online.  He said he supports this idea and hopes to accomplish this in the near future, but he is still getting settled in and trying to sort out some of the residual budgetary problems.

I will make a separate post shortly about my discussion with the mayor regarding the upcoming special tax election.

Nicholas Horton