Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fayetteville’s Sales Tax Rate Increase and Extension

What do sewers, roads, and trails have in common? You guessed it, money! Lots of money.

Fayetteville voters went to the polls September 12th and voted to increase city sales tax by ¼ of 1%. They also voted to extend of the number of years before an existing ¾ of 1% sales tax will end. Thus, starting January 1, 2007, state, county and city sales tax on most purchases in Fayetteville will total 9¼% for the next 12 years. Hotel, motel and restaurant tax is an additional 2% on purchases of that type.

For those who haven’t lived here for several years, here is a brief summary of where we are on the sewer project, and how we got here-----

Back in the 1990s, city leaders realized that unprecedented growth would necessitate an improved wastewater treatment system. In 2000, city officials estimated $60 million to $90 million would be needed to cover sewer plant improvements.

In 2001, city administrators estimated $125 million was needed for the sewer project. Voters agreed and passed an increase of ¾ of 1% sales tax. The project was expected to be complete by September 2006. If everything went as planned, the bonds would have been paid off in 2013 and the increased sales tax increase would have ceased.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. By 2003, estimates had escalated to $140 million and completion was scheduled for 2007.

By 2005, fingers started pointing in all directions. Virtually everyone and everything imaginable were blamed for the cost overruns and delays. The engineers and designers, project directors, mayor, city staff, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, war in Iraq, China’s increasing demands for raw materials and energy – all were blamed. Some said it was no one’s fault - it was just that the original plan and cost estimates were “overly optimistic.”

Fast forward to 2006. Voters were told they would have to pay to complete the sewer project one way or another. They had two choices: (1) vote to increase and extend the sales tax or (2) pay considerably higher sewer fees each month for a much longer number of years.

Voters (the ones who vote anyway) are intelligent people. It was easy to see that approving the sales tax was the better choice. Everyone visiting the city would help residents pay for the sewers. Each time a visitor patronized a restaurant, spent a night at a motel, bought a gift, or shopped for groceries, money would roll in to the city coffers.

Again, I am saddened by the thousands of registered voters who did not take the time to make their voices heard. Roughly 83% of voters did NOT vote! But, I digress. Back to the subject of sewers.

The increase in sales tax revenue will be used to (hopefully) complete the sewer project. I have to say “hopefully” because at this point, no one can be certain about total costs. Some portions of the project have not even gone out to bid.

In addition to the $42 million sales tax increase that will be used to repay sewer bonds, voters approved additional expenditures for street improvements and trails. $66 million will help widen roads and reconfigure some extremely congested intersections. It will take several years for the planned improvements to be completed and I say the sooner the better.

And lastly, voters approved spending $2 million to improve hiking/biking trails. This is another example of what gives Fayetteville high rankings for quality of life.

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