Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

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

Monday, October 22, 2007

Will Property Taxes Increase in NW Arkansas?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to increase taxes in our area. The City of Fayetteville, Fayetteville School District, Benton County and Washington County have all mentioned the possibility of higher taxes and the talk seems to be getting louder all the time.

First, let me explain how taxes are determined in Arkansas. One mill is 1/10 of one cent ($.001). The value for tax assessment is 20% of fair market value, which is then multiplied by the effective millage rate. This applies to real estate (homes) and personal property (vehicles, boats and other similar items). A home with a market value of $100,000 would be valued at $20,000 for tax purposes. For example, property within Fayetteville School District and the City of Fayetteville in 2006 was taxed at 50.70 mills. Multiplying $20,000 x .05070 equals a tax of $1014.00.

The City of Fayetteville says it will probably need a 0.9-mill increase to compensate for falling sales tax revenue.

Fayetteville School District says it will need a millage increase of 4 to 10 mills in the not too distant future to build a new high school.

Washington County needs money to replace bridges, one of which has been closed to all traffic and three more bridges need major repairs. This has caused county officials to seriously consider raising the road tax to 3 mills, an increase of 1.9 mills.

Benton County is thinking about a sales tax increase to cover the expenses of moving juvenile detention and court facilities.

As you can see, there are many reasons for possible tax increases and just as many pros and cons. I don’t have the space here to go into all the ramifications, but quality of life has to be given serious consideration. Without street improvements, good schools, adequate police and fire protection, clean air, parks, etc., quality of life decreases.

Higher taxes make most people unhappy. No one ever asks how much more they should pay yet most of us complain about gridlock on the roads or not having immediate response when we need a police officer.

I read recently that Fayetteville City government may cut cost-of-living adjustments for employees in order to lower the tax increase. I have to agree with police and fire fighters – that’s not the best way to balance the budget. City employees deserve to have their wages keep up not only with inflation but also with pay scales in similar cities. We don’t want to lose good, experienced police, fire fighters, and city workers.

Washington County reassessed all real estate in 2007, which resulted in higher appraised values for nearly every parcel. The increased value will be reflected on next year’s tax bills and means higher taxes even if the millage rate is unchanged.

Sam’s Club moved from Springdale to Fayetteville just a few weeks ago. Naturally, that means more sales tax revenue for the city. Malco Movie Theater just opened its brand new, state-of-the-art, digital 12-screen theater in Fayetteville, which is also expected to bring in more sales taxes. But these two new sales tax sources will not make up for the reduced level of revenue from sales taxes in Fayetteville.

Another factor to keep in mind is that Fayetteville is the lowest taxing city of any of the major towns in NW Arkansas, according to Mayor Dan Coody. And a modest increase in the millage now may prevent a larger increase in the future.

Some government entities have money in reserve accounts. I know we have to have money in the “rainy-day fund,” but dark clouds are already gathering.

The needs are numerous, expensive, and easy to justify. Maybe we need to face reality and dig deeper into our wallets.

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