The mayor has passed along these figures that show how much the last A&P tax (which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters at the polls) brought in during its tenure:
August 8, 2012
To: Members of the City Council
From: David Morris
I have asked our City Clerk/Treasurer to furnish me with the amount of the collection of the former advertising and promotion (A&P) tax, that was collected in Searcy in 2009. As you know, the former A&P tax was one percent (1%) on prepared food and three percent (3%) on lodging. The tax was collected for approximately five and a half (5 ½) months.
The actual collections for the five (5) full months were as follows:
July 2009 $79,287.48
August 2009 $79,550.03
September 2009 $82,519.80
October 2009 $84,861.82
November 2009 $78,527.80
The average of these five (5) months of full collections is $80,949.39 per month. Assuming that monthly average continued, the annual revenue generated would have been $971,392.68.
While there have been some private rumblings for some time, Alderman Don Raney has now made it publicly known that he intends to propose yet another tax increase to the Searcy city council at the August meeting.
In Raney’s letter, he identifies two concerns that were raised about the last A&P proposal: 1. The issue was not placed at a general election & 2. The funds were to be overseen by an unelected commission rather than elected public officials.
(Mr. Raney is partially correct. There were objections raised about the tax being placed at a special election, but I never heard anyone demand it be placed at the general election, but simply at a regular election–primary or general election. But I digress.)
I fear that Mr. Raney thinks these two compromises on the part of the city will ease the concerns of everyone who opposed the A&P tax the first time–and for some former opponents, that may be true. But the problems with an A&P tax are fundamental.
For instance, is it ethical for our city to slap tourists with an extra 3% when they come to our city? Should they bear the cost for our amenities? And is this sound tax policy? (by the way, that 3% would also apply to groups that rent rooms for meetings in town, perhaps including Kiwanis, Lions, church groups, etc.)
Shouldn’t an “A&P tax” go towards “advertising and promotion?”
Should we be raising taxes on food?
Doesn’t this tax disproportionality effect the poor?
Do parks improvements really take precedence over infrastructure and public safety?
What level of taxation can our city sustain? Can we really keep raising taxes every time someone wants a new project and expect real growth?
Our economy is still floundering–what impact would this tax have on consumers who are tightening their belts even more?
I think these are questions that deserve answers. I’m looking forward to having a conversation with you–Searcy voters, people of White County, and activists from around the state that have seen the disastrous effects of A&P taxes and big government in your cities.
I have little doubt the A&P proposal will have any difficulty making it through the city council, so the debate is imminent.
(To our dear Searcy leaders: Sorry, I know you thought this blog was defunct. And while it is true that I have been, and will continue to be, primarily occupied with my work at The Arkansas Project, I will be taking time to weigh in on this tax debate as much as possible. I may not be leading the charge this time, but I will make my voice heard and the people will be given the facts about this proposal.)
I posted a story this morning that was originally titled “Searcy Mayor, White County Judge Support Diesel Tax Increase.” Then a reader so politely commented that the diesel tax wasn’t going to be on the ballot in November. So I updated the story to let everyone know that I was looking into it and that I may have made a mistake.
Here’s what I’ve learned after talking to a fellow Arkansas blogger & a contact in the Secretary of State’s office:
The Diesel Tax, HB 1898, may or may not be on the November ballot. Governor Beebe could still call a special election if he chooses to, although it appears unlikely. However, the Diesel Tax is no longer relevant to this discussion because the tax that Judge Lincoln & Searcy Mayor Morris are supporting is Issue 1, or the ‘Highway Tax.’ It is a general sales & use tax that would impose a half -percent tax on all sales in the state, not just diesel, according to the SOS’s office. Which is kind of worse, in my opinion.
Sorry for identifying the wrong tax, but it doesn’t change the focal point of my article: Judge Lincoln is supporting a tax hike while telling White County voters that the county desperately needs the money. These claims are provably false, as county revenues have been higher than ever under Judge Lincoln’s reign.
Read the full story here.
Searcy Mayor David Morris & White County Judge Mike Lincoln apparently both stated in the local paper a few months ago that they support Issue 1 or the ‘Highway Tax’* that will be on the ballot in November. The half cent tax* increase was referred to voters by the state legislature during last year’s regular session.
A tax on fuel…what a great idea! A tax hike on everything? What a great idea!*
Morris reportedly said that street improvements are his ‘biggest concern’ and said the additional revenue that the city would receive as turnback would be ‘welcomed.’
I find this particularly interesting, given that Searcy voters approved a 1% tax increase in December 2011, specifically for road improvements, and the mayor did publicly & privately promise not to call for any further tax increases until this new tax expires. The tax went into effect on April 1 of this year.
Then we have Mike “Never-met-a-tax-I-didn’t-like” Lincoln who told the paper that we “desperately needs additional funds for highways.” Lincoln also said, “if we want improvements, we are going to have to pay for them.”
This is a line he used repeatedly during his campaign to raise taxes on White County taxpayers by 1% last September. The implication behind this comment is sincerely insulting to the people of White County. Of course, if we want to improve our infrastructure, we will have to pay for it. But ‘paying for it’ and raising taxes to pay for it are two entirely different things, Judge Lincoln.
Voters should also remember that the judge cut $1.5 million from this year’s county road budget, while the county sits on millions of dollars in CDs and other accounts. He uses many straw-man arguments like, “Well, we don’t have enough money in the road fund,” leading voters to believe that only money in the road fund can be used for infrastructure improvements, but this is simply not true.
The fact is: White County government, during Judge Lincoln’s time in office, has enjoyed its highest revenues in history. Our problems in White County do not originate from a lack of revenue. They stem from a lack of leadership.
UPDATE: A delightful Lincoln supporter & serial commenter on this blog has said that the diesel tax will no longer be on the Arkansas ballot in 2012. I have read some discussion in the news about this, but I have not seen anything definitive. Many sites are still reporting that the issue will be on the ballot, including Ballotpedia (whom I cited earlier in this post). They have the ballot question’s status listed as “on the ballot.” TaxRates.com reported on the vote just over a week ago, citing a poll that was conducted on the issue in late March of this year.
I am looking into this and will keep you posted. Whether or not the issue will be on the ballot this year is immaterial to my point in this article. Judge Lincoln wants higher taxes, despite county revenues being higher than ever. And this point is not dependent upon this particular tax issue. He has supported multiple other taxes during his time in office, and I will be outlining those as well.
*This part of the story was edited for clarification.
It will be mostly an open format where citizens are allowed to ask questions (*GASP*).
Friends of open government should attend and ask questions like:
- Why did the city repeal its only transparency ordinance? Was it really to avoid a ‘huge box crisis?’ And why didn’t the mayor stop it?
- Why isn’t the city budget online yet?
- What, specifically, has the city done to promote transparency in government?
- Is SearcyStreets.com ready to go, as promised, since the collection of our latest tax increase begins next week?
- Now that we’ve voted in a tax for a bypass, are we any closer to knowing the path of the road?
The meeting begins at 7 p.m.
I reported yesterday that Searcy police chief Kyle Osborne is planning to challenge incumbent state representative Mark Biviano for his seat. I followed up with Biviano’s campaign and asked for comment on these developments.
Biviano said we need someone who is committed to tackling problems if we are going to overcome the challenges we face as a state:
I look forward to a race run on the issues. To truly serve the people of our district it has taken a dedication of time and an understanding of the concerns they face each day. As a small business owner I am very familiar with the challenges of raising a family, running a business and protecting jobs in this economic environment.
I have not been afraid to take on the status quo making a stand to protect our families & businesses
The challenges that face our state over the coming years like the economy, job creation, education and healthcare will take someone who is willing to dedicate the time and effort to both understand and act for the people in our community.
Someone reminded me that I left everyone hanging on a story I posted earlier this month (after the passage of the Searcy bypass tax, which has now been proclaimed as a ‘mandate’ for more taxes in Searcy…go figure). Apologies for the delay, but I really couldn’t care less about politics during the holidays. Anyway, I promised to tell you more about a brief conversation I had with Mayor Morris at the courthouse on election night.
It was a short conversation, but the mayor invited me to come back by city hall and visit with him after the first of the year about his agenda going forward (I say ‘back’ because I previously met with him in September of this year to talk about the city budget, bypass tax, etc.).
I also took the opportunity to ask the mayor if he had given any more thought to my suggestion that the city setup a website to track the collections & spending of every penny of the bypass tax money. The mayor told me,
We are going to do that. We are going to put it all online.
So, now it’s on the record and I am very anxious see this project take off when the collections start in April. This is a great way to instate some transparency in city operations and create some trust between the taxed and the taxers.
I am looking forward to meeting with the mayor after the first of the year. Perhaps we can do some video interviews.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a merry Christmas. Enjoy this next weekend of holidays and get some rest. We have a lot of work to do in 2012.