Tagged: Jim Dixon

Three Positive Proposals for Searcy’s Tax Ordinance

As promised, here is a verbatim copy of my email that I just sent off to the Searcy mayor & city council:

“Mr. Mayor,

I enjoyed our visit yesterday about funding options for the bypass project.  My hope is that the council will comb through the budget & put together a plan that will find the necessary $3 million over the next 3 years’ budgets.  I do not recall the city ever passing on a $500,000 or $1 million firetruck whenever it has been proposed suddenly.  My point is, they always seem to find the money when they really want to.  So I tend to think that the city could find $3 million for this bypass project over the next 3 years and present that plan to the highway commission before years end.

But I am also realistic and I realize that, given the public comments made by the majority of the council, the council intends to pass a tax tonight.  While I still think this is an unconscionable time to consider raising taxes, it seems inevitable, so I appreciate your desire, Mr. Mayor, to make the proposal as amicable to everyone as possible.

Here is what I would like to see in a tax proposal:

  • Sunrise & Sunset.  I know the council has promised to sunset the tax–I hope this will be a real sunset, an automatic sunset in the language of the ordinance–but I additionally propose a sunrise clause.  Under this plan, the council would pass the tax and place the issue at a special election this year, but the tax would not go into effect until January 2013.  This would give the economy more time to improve and it would show that the council is sensitive to the real economic pain that people are feeling right now.  It will also give the highway commission the commitment they are asking for now.

I know when we spoke yesterday, Mr. Mayor, there was some question about whether or not this sunrise concept could be implemented without violating state law.

According to 26-75-207, Section D, which covers rules for municipal sales & use taxes for capital improvements, the tax can be implemented in this way:

“(2) The effective date of the ordinance or petition delayed under subdivision (d)(1) of this section shall:

      (A) Be scheduled on the first day of the first month of a calendar quarter; and

      (B) Not be delayed for more than thirty-six (36) months after the date the ordinance or petition would be effective under § 26-75-209(1)(D)(ii).

      A.C.A. § 26-75-207

The full text can be read here: http://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2010/title-26/subtitle-6/chapter-75/subchapter-2/26-75-207/

I assume the tax that is forthcoming will be a sales & use tax for capital improvement, rather than a general sales tax, since this tax is for the purposes of capital improvements.  If the council is serious about using the money only for infrastructure, this capital improvement structure is more than suitable and will allow for delayed implementation of the tax.  I think this sound policy that will allow the economy more time to recover but also show the highway commission the ‘commitment’ they are asking for.

  • Take only what you need.  I do think that, politically, it would be best served for the council to ask for the $3 million for the bypass now and come back and ask for the additional money for the arterial roads later, but this seems to be off the table and I expect the council will ask for the full amount now.  In that case, I do not expect to see a proposal that is projected to bring in more than $6-$8 million, more than enough for the arterial improvements.
  • Earmark every penny.  When I say every penny, I mean all of them.  The council should be more than willing to put together a plan that prioritizes how the money should be spent.  Main street should be first, then Davis drive.  Excess money at that point should be used for sidewalks down these streets.  If those projects are completed, other roads which touch the bypass should be improved.  Not Country Club Road or Golf Course Drive–only roads that are truly arteries to the bypass.  All of this should be spelled out specifically in the ordinance, including street names and sequential order of construction, so there is no confusion or Searcy voters can be assured that the money will be spent in the right way.

I also dislike & distrust this entire idea of ‘special elections.’  I think they are a misuse of taxpayer money and usually a backdoor into something that the people do not like.  However, I can see that the highway department has convinced the city that this is an urgent issue that ‘must be addressed now.’  While I still disagree and that idea contradicts other public comments that the highway commission has made, I will concede that point for now.

I am sure this email comes as quite a surprise to some of the council members who think I am “against everything” or that I “hate Searcy, hate progress.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What I desire is real progress, and real progress requires transparency & openness with the voters.  I know you agree, Mr. Mayor, and I can see that you have already taken steps to make the city more responsive to the people.  I hope the council will follow your lead & enact my 3 proposals that I have mentioned here.  If they do, they will not only get this tax, but they can begin to repair the large breach of trust that has formed over the last several years between the people and their government–a breach that truly is keeping us from real progress.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to seeing you tonight at the meeting.


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


Details of Forthcoming Searcy Tax Proposal

The city council had an informative (though admittedly not productive) special session last night.  The entirety of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the proposed bypass as well as ways to fund the city’s portion of the costs associated with the bypass.  Mr. John Burkhalter of the state highway commission and Mr. Randy Ort of the AHTD were on hand to discuss the current situation and answer questions from Searcy citizens and their elected officials.

The major points made during the presentation and the ensuing question and answer session included the following:

  • The city needs to commit to a $3M local match by January 31, 2012 or the portion of the bypass between Highway 16 and Highway 36 will not be completed and the state/federal funds currently designated for this project will be allocated elsewhere.  The $3M will need to be available and paid to the state before work can begin, and this project is expected to be bid in 2013.
  • The route for that portion of the bypass has not yet been determined.  There are currently 3 routes under consideration and the final route selection will be determined by looking at a combination of factors including economic impact, cost, environmental impact and safety among other things.
  • Citizens who wish to have a say in the final route of the proposed bypass should put their comments in writing and send them to the AHTD.  The route will be more likely to be influenced by comments regarding impact on safety (such as comments about the number of students/children who travel along Holmes Road and whose safety will be endangered by increased traffic on that route).  The more the AHTD hears regarding this from the citizens of Searcy, the more likely they are to pay attention to it.
  • The AHTD will be holding a meeting on October 4th at 4:00 p.m. at Valley Baptist church to discuss the southern portion of the bypass (from McRae to Highway 36).

After this, the gentlemen from the state left and the mayor and city council discussed what to do going forward and took some questions and comments from the crowd.  Some key points from that included the following:

  • The mayor and council agreed that they will do this as frugally as possible.
  • The mayor and council agreed that in addition to the $3M for the bypass, they needed to provide funding for improving North Main Street out to the bypass and Davis Drive out to the bypass.
  • The city’s current estimates are that a 1% sales tax would generate $6M per year.
  • The mayor and city council agreed that they will put forth a proposal for a 1% sales tax that sets a hard sunset (the length of which is yet to be determined, but they discussed 12 or 15 months which would mean $3M to $4.5M would be available for the work on North Main and Davis Drive) and is dedicated in the language of the ordinance to be used for the following:
  1. The city’s match for the bypass
  2. The proposed improvements to North Main Street and Davis Drive
  3. Any revenue generated by the tax beyond what was needed for those two purposes would go into the city’s street fund for use improving city streets.
  • Cost estimates for the work on North Main and Davis Drive have been done by the city engineer, but he was unavoidably out of town at a meeting concerning flood plain planning/management and was unable to provide that information last night.  As a result, the city council will meet again Thursday at 5:00 to discuss a specific proposal once they have the city engineer’s estimates.  The mayor thought that the estimates for the work were somewhere between $3M (for minimal work being done on those arteries) and $5M (for a significant amount of improvement to those arteries.
Scott Biddle, formerly chairman of Searcy Friends of the Voters.


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

Searcy Bypass Route Released

The state highway department has released a map for the north half of the “Hwy. 36 – Hwy. 67 Connector” or “Searcy bypass.”

It appears the highway will travel down Holmes Road, rather than further up the ridge, down the path of Covington Road as previously reported by county officials.

(click here for a zoomable version of the map)

The highway department has also released this comment form to allow local residents to weigh in on the proposed map.

This most recent route has caused some controversy locally since it will require some Searcy citizens to vacate their homes.

Funding for the north portion of the bypass (picture above) will be discussed at a special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Searcy City Hall.

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

Arguments for the White County Bypass Tax (And the Fallacies Therein)

Now that I’ve provided some factual information about the structure of the proposed “bypass tax” in White County, I think it is important to present some of the arguments/agendas at work in this debate.  From my perspective, there are a few schools of thought.

First, it is important to clarify that there are really two debates happening here–and the local governments have successfully muddled them into one large cesspool in order to advance their agenda.

The two issues at hand:  1. Do we want/need a bypass?  And 2. Do we want/need a tax to pay for it?

Some are claiming that it would be irresponsible to not pass the tax and build the bypass because we would be “missing out on an opportunity to receive ‘free money’ from the state.”  This is logic truly lost on me.  There is no such thing as free money.  Not only will the money come with countless strings attached, it is our money to begin with.

Furthermore, we should not allow any amount of bribery or persuasion from the state or federal government to dictate how we conduct our business here at the local level.  If we do not have the money for this project, we should not do it.  And raising taxes so we can get “free money” is reckless and irresponsible.

Those in city governments across the county see this tax as an opportunity to stuff their city’s coffers.  Remember, half of the projected revenue from the tax (approximately $9 million) will be redistributed to the cities on a per capita basis.  More free money!

Then there are the rumors are floating around the city of Searcy that their additional $3 million in revenue will be used to set up an aquatic center fund.  I can’t verify this and city officials will deny it, but it’s out there.  The local newspaper is now reporting that the Searcy City Council will formally declare their support for the tax.  They just can’t help themselves.  They know they cannot get a tax passed on their own–voters in Searcy have voted down tax increases twice in recent years–so they’ve convinced the county to do their bidding for them.  Are Searcy politicians using the county government (and taxpayers) to advance their tax-hiking agenda?

Haven’t the people of Searcy made it clear that they don’t want to pay higher taxes?  And aren’t these the same politicians who supported the A&P Tax because it was a “participatory tax, not a tax on everything?”   Breaking news: the bypass tax is a tax on everything.

Another school of thought is declaring that this bypass “will be GREAT for businesses!”  But since when is raising taxes good for businesses?  And as for the merits of the bypass, I can see where it will create potential for future economic growth as Searcy expands, but right now, our businesses are struggling.  After all, we are in a serious recession.  Is this a reasonable time to even consider raising taxes?  I think not.

Just a few weeks ago, Yarnell’s closed its doors and put several hundred employees out of work.  Is this really the time to start diverting traffic away from our businesses?  Or a prudent time to suck $18 million out of our local economy?

There are arguments that can be made for and against the bypass–there is validity in both sides of this issue.  But how can we possibly consider raising taxes to do it?  These politicians love taxes and they seem to think they have been elected to raise them.

The appetite of government is insatiable.  Bureaucrats will never stop asking for more money from taxpayers–will we stop giving it?

Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot & former Searcy City Council candidate.  He owns & operates Horton’s Lawn Care in Searcy.  In his spare time, he volunteers for various political causes.  Contact Nicholas at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter.

Searcy Mayor Changes Course, Commends Nutter For Appointments


Thank you for your willingness to serve on this A & P Refunding Committee.  When I’ve requested you to serve on Council Committees in the past your schedule seemed to prohibit your participation.  I’m glad to see you could find the time.

I disagree with your statement regarding the city’s unwillingness to listen to citizen input, as the City held a public hearing for that specific purpose, as well as hearing from constituents on an individual basis.

It is refreshing to see that you have willingly included non-City of Searcy residents to be on this committee, knowing that you have resisted similar situations in the past regarding other standing committees of the City.

I am looking forward to hearing the recommendations of the committee when presented to the full Council for their consideration.  I am confident the eight elected city council members will make a fair and reasonable decision whether to accept or deny in full or in part.

If any of the listed individuals you have mentioned decline to serve, I might have some suggestions for inclusion.

Since you are willing to entertain suggestions, I would suggest that the committee meet, as soon as possible, to insure a speedy resolution and the taxpayers can expect to see the refund prior to the close of 2010

Your Mayor,

Mayor Belinda LaForce


City of Searcy

401 West Arch Avenue

Searcy, AR 72143

(501) 268-2483 PH

(501) 279-1050 FAX


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.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.

Laforce Does Not Recognize Nutter–Must Have Been the Tie.

This video clearly shows the type of bickering that is impeding true progress in this city.

Here the mayor is clearly seen denying an alderman a right to even pose a question during last night’s city council meeting.  Just imagine how bad things would be if the city was still under a partisan system (the non-partisan resolution passed last year by the council was designed to heal all of the party-invoked wounds and disagreement on the council):


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.  The editor can be reached at arkansaspatriot@gmail.com Follow The Patriot on Twitter and Facebook.

Searcy Friends of the Voters: “If Pro-Taxers Had Spoken the Truth, Tax Would Have Failed in Landslide.”

Letter to the Editor

The people spoke. The Searcy Friends of the Voters are pleased that so many of our fellow citizens exercised their right to vote (a right we fought hard to protect when the city tried to deny it). The results are in, and now the mayor wants to investigate to determine whether “misinformation” played any role in the outcome.

Let me save the mayor the trouble: misinformation played a HUGE role in the outcome – if the pro-tax crowd had spoken the truth the tax would have gone down in a landslide.

For the last week or two leading up to the election, the pro-tax folks kept claiming that our statements were lies. We acquired a document they were circulating (I received this from a citizen who received it from alderman Mary Ann Arnett – one of the pro-tax people) which alleges to refute our claims. I will now list the pro-tax claims of our “untruths” and cite the facts in our final word on the topic.

Pro-tax folks said “Nothing that has been done [by the city] has been or was illegal.”

  • Judge Tom Hughes ruled on September 30th that for the previous 3 months the city had been enforcing an ordinance that didn’t exist. This means that they were violating several state laws pertaining to public referendum. It also means they were violating Section 1-7 of Searcy’s code of ordinances which says the following: “It shall be unlawful for any person to change or amend by additions or deletions, any part or portion of this Code, or to insert or delete pages, or portions thereof, or to alter or tamper with such Code in any manner whatsoever except by Ordinance of the City Council, which shall cause the law of the City of Searcy, Arkansas, to be misrepresented thereby.”
  • Arkansas code 7-9-111 states the following: “The date of any special election shall be set in accordance with § 7-5-103(b) but in no event more than one hundred twenty (120) calendar days after the date of certification of sufficiency by the municipal clerk.” Our petitions were certified as sufficient on July 10, 2009 which meant that this law (combined with Arkansas code 7-5-103 which required the election to be held on the second Tuesday of a month) required that the election be held no later than October 13, 2009.
  • The city council voted on June 9th, 2009 to take specific actions with regards to the A&P commission after being provided an Attorney General opinion which specifically stated that taking such actions would violate the state constitution.
  • The city council started collecting the tax 50 days after the passage of the ordinance. Arkansas code 14-55-203 states “The effective dates for ordinances of a general or permanent nature and other local measures of a general or permanent nature of cities of the first class, cities of the second class, and incorporated towns shall be upon publication or posting as is otherwise required by law, but not before ninety-one (91) days after passage by the governing body of the city or town.”
  • The city council refused to hold the ordinance “in abeyance” as required by Article 5 of the state constitution which states “[a]ny measure referred to the people by referendum petition shall remain in abeyance until such vote is taken.” Continue reading