The Van Buren City Council selected July 10, 2012, as the date of the special election, during which the city’s voters will determine whether to move forward on a 1% sales tax addition.
The decision came at Monday night’s (April 16) meeting at the Van Buren Municipal Complex.
The added tax will pay for capital improvements to the fire, police, and parks departments, as well as a new Senior Center. The proposal, outlined by Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman at February’s State of the City meeting, will be divided in two.
One-half of the one cent will go to fund ongoing operations, while the additional .50% will pay for the issuance of bonds to build the Senior Center as well as a new fire department and police department, and to fund parks and recreation improvements.
Freeman reiterated to The City Wire on Monday that the 0.50% operations end of the tax will serve a permanent role moving forward, while the remaining 0.50% “will go away” once the bonds needed to pay for capital improvements have been funded.
Freeman expects the temporary side of the tax to sunset in “approximately seven years.”
But before that happens, it will fund $2.9 million in firefighting improvements, $4.4 million in police department improvements, $1.75 million in parks and recreation improvements, and $2.65 million for the new Senior Center.
The ballot question will present each of the capital improvement items separately, while the operations end will serve four purposes:
• To pay and secure the repayment of bonds for the capital improvement projects;
• To fund fire, police and other emergency services purposes;
• To fund park and recreational purposes; and,
• To serve economic development purposes.
If voters choose to deny the bonds, then the 0.50% ongoing tax will serve purposes B, C, and D, only.
Freeman said all food and retail items within the city of Van Buren will carry the new 1% tax, which brings the overall city sales tax to 2%, the same as Mulberry and Alma, and 0.25% higher than Greenwood.
Also Monday night, the council voted unanimously on the recommendation of Freeman to deny Lawbreakers and Peacemakers’ formal request to stage monthly gunfight reenactments in the Downtown Van Buren area.
“My personal concerns have to do with things that are happening not only in our area or society but in others, particularly with the courthouse shooting. I don’t have a problem with reenactments if they are in conjunction with other events, but I do have concerns here,” Freeman told council members.
Freeman’s “courthouse shooting” comment referred to the Sept. 2011 shooting perpetrated by assailant James Ray Palmer.
Main Street business owner Barbara Little (A Little Bit of Mexico) agreed with Freeman’s recommendation.
“I’m totally opposed to having a gunfight on Main Street. I think it’s totally insensitive to our soldiers, who come back with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Plus, I don’t think it was historically accurate for the street,” Little said.
No representatives from Lawbreakers and Peacemakers were in attendance Monday night.
In other business, the council announced the winning bidder on the 2012 Street Improvement Project and declared that it would purchase the assets of the Dora Rural Water Users Association (for approximately $167,600).
The 2012 Street Improvement Project was awarded to Moore Contracting Co., Inc., for the second year in a row. The council approved the company’s bid of $630,133.80.