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Fort Smith library millage fails, Alma voters approve sales tax measure

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Voters went to the polls in Alma and Fort Smith on Tuesday (Aug. 12) to decide on a sales tax issue in the Crawford County city and a millage increase in Fort Smith, with mixed results. In Fort Smith, the two mil increase sought by the library's board of trustees went down by a vote of 64.02% against to 35.98% for the increase out of 4,343 votes cast.

Alma's attempt to get a one cent sales tax passed before the current one cent sales sunsets next month. A previous effort in the May primary to get a one cent sales tax passed ended up failing, leading to Tuesday's special election.

FORT SMITH LIBRARY
The millage question for the Fort Smith library would have raised the library's millage rate from one mil to three mils, which would have increased the library's operating budget by approximately $2.8 million.

The library's stated plan for the funding included improving technologies at the library, as well as adding a maker space and offering digital streaming services. Kiosks were also a possibility around the city, similar to red box but for books and other media.

At the Windsor Street library branch Tuesday afternoon, Library Trustee Bettye J. Baker said the programs proposed were needed and said the library's board of trustees had not formulated a "Plan B" for tonight's election result.

"Not really," she said. "We're just so hopeful that it will pass. And we are so aware of the programs that we need and it would really hurt all of us."

Rebekah Walton, a past library trustee voting at the Windsor Street branch Tuesday, voted in favor of the increase because she believed the neighborhood expansion that occurred in the 1990s is tied to the millage vote Tuesday "and it's a work that still needs to be completed."

She said she expected the library to find another way to fund the programs proposed as a part of the millage election that failed Tuesday.

"The list had the necessaries, the not so necessaries, and the dream items to make the library what they really want it to be. So if it does not pass, which I doubt, I think the library will – they have such a broad base of support – they will find another avenue to have done what they need to get done."

Dewayne Roller was another voter at the Windsor branch who voted against the millage.

"I voted against it," he said. "Well, I think we pay too much in taxes right now. We need to get business back in Fort Smith because it looks to me like Fort Smith is going to become another Detroit. That's just my personal opinion."

Robert Kelly, president of the library Board of Trustees, provided this statement: “Speaking for the Board of Trustees, we're obviously disappointed in the results of the election and also in the low voter turnout. We hope the low turnout doesn't reflect the community's real level of interest in the library. The Board is very proud of the excellent work the library staff did, particularly our director Jennifer Goodson, in promoting the library to the community. We are committed to offering quality library services to the community, at whatever level funding allows.”
 
Goodson issued this statement: “It's hard to know exactly what to say right now. We put together a plan for the library's future that we felt would provide value and impact our community positively for many years to come and we worked hard to share the plan with our citizens. It's disappointing that the majority of the people who voted today don't share that vision. The library staff and I remain committed to our community. We know that libraries change lives and we will continue our work tomorrow and the next day and into the future to do that to the best of our ability with the resources that are available to us.”

Should the library choose to vote on a millage increase, it may have to wait until after the general election in November, said Sebastian County Election Commission Chairman Lee Webb.

"The kicker is they would have to get the city to approve (an election) again and the deadline (to get on the November ballot) is in August for that. But I don't think they're planning (another election)."

ALMA SALES TAX
In Alma, the results were different with the city's one percent tax passing. The sales tax will support a variety of projects, each of which had to be voted on separately.

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Following is the final tally of votes for the various capital improvement projects.
• Streets - 288 to 154;
• Fire Department - 296 to 151;
• Police Department - 291 to 156;
• Parks Department - 278/156;
• Downtown development - 270 to 177;
• Parking - 256 to 192; and
• Refinancing municipal bond debt - 280 to 161.

According to Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer, the sales tax will sunset once all projects have been paid off in full.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.6 (11 votes)

Comments

Library Milage

Thank you so much City Wire for providing a forum in which the taxpayers could come and openly debate both sides of this issue. I love and support the library, but the manner in which this thing was handled was absolutely ridiculous. Thecitywire has become my main source for unbiased news. Keep up the good work.

Maybe if you had supported

Maybe if you had supported the library, you'd know how to correctly spell "millage." Sad day for future of Fort Smith.

Millage

I used all the money I won't be spending on property taxes to buy my new $600 cellular phone and I'm getting used to commenting with it. Didn't UAFS just build up their library? Is there not a library in every school within the city limits? I say if they can't manage their budget they should fail. Turn the main building into city hall instead of paying Stephens Media a million dollars a year. Is everything in this post spelled correctly? Take your loss and learn to google instead of trying to milk taxpayers for money. Bums are getting testy these days.

I don't support waste

My other comment must've been to harsh. It is that kind of arrogant attitude that has you tax grabbers saddened tonight. Trust me when I tell you the mishap was accidental and not a reflection of my intellect. I can tell you that 2744 against and 1542 for leaves a 1202 voter gap that will not allow upper crust fuddyduddies like you to depend on the likes of me to support your dreams.

Just Maybe

if library leadership had an educated feel for the economy in Fort Smith they would have understood that the time was not right for a "millage" increase on property taxes because of the poor local economy. The library wasted a lot of taxpayers money on a special election that had no chance of passing and most educated people knew the tax would fail!

My word....

I swear to God if I hear one more person say that we wasted tax payers money on this election I am going to scream. Do you people just go around believing all of the crap you hear? Do you take the time to educate yourselves on fact? Obviously not, education doesn't seem to matter much here. But by all means, lets get another indoor practice field for the football teams....ignorant bafoons.

The Word Is

"one mans meat is another mans poison" so a diverse community needs ball fields, good entertainment, good parks, good housing, good schools, moderate taxes, business friendly government, great police and fire protection, and other things to provide a little something for everyone. When a community only hears the cries of a few, it is doomed to fail and Fort Smith is not a diverse community that has that little something for everyone! On the other hand, Fayetteville has Bikes, Blues, and Barbeque style events that draw the crowds and visitors to the community as an example and is a very diverse community. Wake up and smell the coffee because the great communities appeal to everyone and not just a select few who trample on the rest of the citizens. Fort Smith can be a great community but some of the so called city leaders need to be replaced with people that understand that big government is not the answer to all!

My Word

Why is that statment not true? A "taxpayer" donated money to have the "special election" that was not necessary and it failed. So why is the statement "waste of taxpayer money" not true. Could that donation have been used in a better way? By the way, the indoor football fields were built by donations from the citizens of our City and businesses. The schools did not ask for any increase to build them. And yes, I am educated, and love our City.

My word....

You are so funny. People are not stupid. If you can not operate on a 2.6 million budget they need to find a another job. A drive though window for their restaurant?? You are funny.

It's buffoons

See how much good the library has done you? Please by all means never fail to show up here for 'special elections'. You are so much help.

Don't be bitter

Don't be juvenile, being critical of a typo, and don't be bitter over the loss. At least now the unemployed and under-employed will not be foreced to sell their houses in a non-existing house market because of the extra property tax expense from library luxury items. As I have said before, there's a time when this vote would be ok to try and get passed (though maybe a lower increase in taxes would be better) but when the city of Fort Smith is becoming the Detroit of the south...it's not the time. Poor decisions of the 'leadership' from the past 60 years has really caught up to the city and now everyone, including those with nothing else to worry about but the offerings of the library, have felt it. Thank the good Lord this did not pass. Very grateful today.

Millage

Are you for real? Sell their houses...I want some of whatever you are taking/smoking/drinking. As I see people on here point to problem after problem and then point at the people they seem to forget that there are 3 fingers pointing back at....YOU!! Very seldom so I see positive solutions put forth so solve issues. In this case, the library millage, a solution was put forth but as usual FS turned it down. Did any of you come up with a different path for a solution....ummm NO. You just sat there and pointed a finger....again!

Here's your solution

Typical liberal speak - "you didn't provide a solution the the problem so we are just going to do it our way and let you eat cake" First off, providing a solution poses the idea that there's a problem. If the libraries were about to have to shut down, and could otherwise prove they are fiscally responsible, that would be a problem. Just wanting new toys for the toy box is not a problem. That's a luxury. A luxury that should be asked for in better economic times. So, the only problem I see which needs a solution is the timing of which the unnecessary funds are requested. Solution? Wait until regular folk, those outside of Fianna Hills, Moody Hill or Wildcat Mountain and own a home, are in a better economic situation and can afford to pay an extra $100 on their monthly property robbery, err taxes.

Question

We keep talking about recuriting businesses go Fort Smith. Today's businesses are turning away from blud-collar and looking for the more educated workforce. We jsut voted down a huge education benefit for Fort Smith. Contrary to what most people believe this is going to negatively impact the business community. We vote for a water park (huge money loser) and against a library. Explain that one to me.

Nice try

Do you truly believe a business is going to say "hey, they voted to turn down the expansion of a library system in some if the worst regional economic conditions ever seen by this town. I don't want to locate there.." Not hardly. Nice try at doomsday speak. The real reasons businesses aren't willing to locate here is sitting at the city administration building. This is not a business friendly region. That is a widely accepted mindset of business leaders (small and large) all across the state and, most likely, the country.

Millage

What I believe Anonymous was trying to say it look at things that do pass in Fort Smith. Whenever it comes to education venues we seem to "pass the buck" down the road. We passed the road tax multiple times, we passed all the water improvement taxes, we passed the police tax to upgrade to analog. Yet, we voted down the City Hall, we voted down the Sports Complex, we've now voted down the library, and after the meeting I went to last week it doesn't look like we're going to get the badly needed new school. The things we voted for were greatly needed to maintain everything here at status quo. If we really want to grow and have people move visit here we've "missed the boat" on everyone of them and voted them down. This is my opinion and what I believe Anonymous was trying to convey.

special election

Funny - the Chairman blaming the defeat on a small turnout. It would have been worse had the vote been held during the general election - when it should have. I am tired of all of the special interests attempting to raise taxes by holding the elections as special elections when hopefully only their supporters will turn out. It should not be legal.