Tagged: White County Republicans

We are Rich! White County Approves Purchase of OEM Building

Folks, we have so much money in White County, we cannot possibly spend it all!  (Well, until of course, we decide want a tax increase.  Then we are broke and that $12+ million we have in the bank is all ‘earmarked.’)  But for now, we are RICH!

In fact, we have SO MUCH of other people’s money, we are calling all realtors: come to White County!  We are so filthy rich, we will let you appraise your own buildings, and we will pay nearly double what your buildings are worth!

That is what has just happened, as the quorum court voted last night to suspend the rules and–unanimously, according to the paper–approved the purchase of a 7,500 square foot building (that previously sold for $320,000) for a price of $590,000…for 2 OEM employees!  But don’t worry!  The appraiser (a friend & donor of the judge’s) has told us that this is a GREAT deal! 

There is plenty more about this story in today’s paper that needs to be analyzed, but for now, let’s all just savor this moment of pride in our county.  We are so rich!   Maybe we should start bailing out other counties in Arkansas!  Or build a water park!  Or buy some farmland in Florida–let’s offer them double!  What a great ideas!  We can definitely afford it!

(On a serious note: the county government is actually very rich, due to natural gas exploration in the area and a jail tax that has never been repealed, but a few more projects like this and we will be hurting like most other counties in the state. Unfortunately, we do not appear to have any executive leadership that is willing to exercise any restraint–except for on road improvements, of course.  Bad days are ahead for our county unless we change the way things operate.)

Nic Horton

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White County Offers $590,000 for Building, Last Purchased for $320,000

There is another developing controversy in White County right now surrounding the purchase of a new building for the Office of Emergency Management.  Judge Mike Lincoln has located a building that he believes is suitable for the needs of OEM and available at a ‘fair price.’

The address of the building is 2301 Eastline Road in Searcy, AR (pictured right).  According to the lot’s “commercial property card,” the building is 7,500 square feet, on approximately 1.45 acres.  Now, according to the card, the property was last sold in 2006 for $320,000.

Before I am called a liar, here is a copy of the property card (Page 1) & a copy of the warranty deed as evidence.

A few other facts about the property:

  • The total new replacement cost for the structure of the building & its components is $317,666 (Page 3)
  • The Replacement Cost New Less Depreciation or RCNLD is $181, 069 (Page 3)
  • The Adjusted Cost Total is $172,016 (Page 2)
  • The building is only 20% ‘retail space,’ and 80% storage (Page 2)

There have also been a lot of questions raised about whether or not the property is connected to city sewer lines and, if not, what the cost of those improvements would be.  As far as I know, the judge has not given a definitive answer about these concerns. Continue reading

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

Full Text of Searcy Bypass Tax Ordinance & Resolution

Here are the three measures that were passed at last Thursday night’s special meeting of the Searcy City Council:

  1. Ordinance 2011-29,  levying a 1% tax on all sales in the city of Searcy for 15 months.
  2. Ordinance 2011-30, which calls for a special election on the tax, to be held on December 13th, 2011.
  3. Resolution 2011-11, which expresses the city council’s support for the tax & the bypass project.

As you can see, the tax ordinance does incorporate some of the suggestions made here on The Patriot.

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

House District 50 Race Shaping Up: Laforce for State Representative?

Sources close to the local Democrat county committee confirm that former Searcy mayor Belinda Laforce intends to challenge Mark Biviano (R) for Arkansas House District 50.

Laforce has recently reemerged, appearing at several community events. This has led to much speculation about her next political step. Many had assumed (and hoped) that her 20-point defeat in last year’s mayoral run-off election would end her involvement in local politics. However, her increased visibility of late, including her new position as chairman of the White County Democrats, has gotten the rumor mill churning.

Many believed White County Election Commission Chairman Winston Collier might throw his hat in the ring, but it appears Laforce will be the party’s pick, rumored to have been recruited by Governor Beebe himself.

Rep. Biviano unseated incumbent representative Monty Betts (D) in 2010 by only 108 votes.

However, Biviano compiled quite a conservative voting record in the Arkansas House before this year’s general session ended, including co-sponsorship of HB 1387 that would have lowered the income tax rate for individuals, trusts, and estates.

His record will serve as quite a contrast to Laforce’s dictatorial record as mayor that included three tax increase proposals, one of which was an A&P tax that was pushed through under Laforce’s direction and led to a prolonged legal battle. The tax was ultimately defeated by voters at the conclusion of the lawsuit against Laforce and the city of Searcy.

Also of note: Laforce has not received much more than 40% of the vote in a general election since her initial election in 2002. In 2006, she lost the general election (against two opponents) by 70 votes and went on to win the runoff by only 17 votes.

I will have more numbers & analysis of this race later this week.

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

Tweet-cap of Tonight’s Searcy Council Meeting

As a summary, here are my tweets from tonight’s special Searcy City Council meeting.  Tweets are in reverse chronological order:
  • Mayor reminds attendees about Oct. 4 public meeting with AR highway commission to discuss south route. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Mayor reiterating that no one wants a tax right now…asks council to go out and sell the tax to the people. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Ordinance for special election passes unanimously. I did not hear a date announced. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to attach emergency clause. #arpx #scc #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to pass the tax ordinance. #arpx #scc #fb
  • Council motions and moves unanimously to not read full text of the ordinance. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Council votes unanimously to amend ordinance to include 1% tax for 15 months. #fb #arpx #SCC
  • Attorney suggests suspending the rules and not reading ordinance. I want to hear what is in it. #arpx #SCC
  • The council has made it clear they want all or nothing. #arpx #SCC
  • That option received zero discussion. #arpx #SCC
  • The mayor informed the council & attorney that there another structural option for the ordinance, allowing delayed implementation. #fb #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says this is “one of the best things we could ever do for #Searcy.” #arpx #SCC
  • Cothern, whose ward includes both arterial roads, supports a package deal. #arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says this is NOT a bypass, that is a misnomer. Echoes Raney that we need full package. #arpx #scc
  • Alderman Raney says we need to present a “package deal” to the voters, including arterial funding. #arpx #SCC #searcy #fb
  • Mayor says we need to fund arterial roads and bypass with one ordinance. #arpx #SCC #searcy #fb
  • Mayor speaking to my suggestions now. Says economy could get worse and we should start collections now. #arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Brewer says costs aren’t going to go down between now and the beginning of construction. May cost more. #arpx #SCC #searcy
  • Mayor Morris asks if work can be done for less and still be safe. engineer isn’t sure. #arpx #SCC #fb
  • Engineer says the number could go up. #arpx #SCC
  • Contrary to my suggestion, the city attorney has drafted this proposal as a general use tax, not capital improvement tax. #arpx #SCC
  • Second estimate says $2million. #arpx #SCC
  • City engineer now says $5m just for Main Street. Says the estimate is high. #arpx #scc #fb
  • City engineer says the estimates do not include sidewalks. #SCC #arpx #fb #searcy
  • Still wondering why the former mayor is here…#arpx #SCC
  • Mr. Dixon is here. Resolution passes 8-0. #arpx #SCC
  • Resolution says the city will not support using Holmes or Collins Roads for the bypass route. #arpx #SCC
  • Resolution says the bypass will “promote job growth and economic development.” #Obamanomics #arpx #SCC
  • City attorney reading a resolution in support of the levying of a #tax. #arpx #SCC #searcy
  • Attendees not provided with a copy of the tax ordinance. #arpx #SCC
  • Mayor Morris says “this is a terrible time for a tax. No time is good for a tax.” #SCC #arpx
  • Mayor Morris thanking the council for listening to the people on Tuesday night. I agree, it was quite a rare occurrence. #arpx #SCC
  • Alderman Dixon is absent thus far. #scc #arpx
  • Meeting in order. Using hashtag #SCC. #arpx #searcy
  • Chamber chairman Layne & Jim House are here as well. #searcy #SCC #arpx
  • Former mayor Laforce is here. #interesting #Searcy #Fb
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

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.

Sincerely,

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