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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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bikes, Blues & BBQ Rally in Fayetteville

The 6th Annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ Rally will be revving up the engines and getting underway Wednesday, September 27th through Saturday, September 30th, 2006. Polish your motorcycle, if you have one, and “Come on Down” to Dickson Street in Fayetteville. If you don’t have a motorcycle, come by car, truck, bicycle, or on foot. It doesn’t matter how you get here, just don’t miss it!

Bikes, Blues & BBQ bills itself as the fastest growing motorcycle rally in the world. Last year, approximately 250,000 people enjoyed the event, which featured about 100,000 motorcycles. Organizers expect some 300,000 people this year.

So many events are scheduled that everyone will find something to their liking. Live music shows are free every night at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

You won’t want to miss the Parade of Power Saturday when bikes will be lining the streets for miles. Dickson Street will be closed to the usual traffic.

If you like food, there will be free BBQ venues or you might want to stop by the state Championship BBQ Cookoff competition.

Not to be overlooked (perhaps I say “looked over,”) is the final competition in the Ms. Bikes, Blues & BBQ Contest.

About 140 vendors will set up their wares and food in throughout the area.

A free, indoor, air-conditioned beer garden is sure to be a big hit.

The Fayetteville Fire Fighter’s Association Poker Run takes place at 8:00 a.m. Saturday.

And, if you and your sweetie haven’t had a chance to tie the knot, legal weddings will be performed starting at 2:00 p.m. Saturday. Just don’t forget - you will need to obtain an Arkansas Marriage License no later than Friday, Sept. 29th.

The Ozarks in early autumn are simply magnificent. The weather is great and the community welcomes its visitors. Fayetteville is located only six hours from Dallas and St. Louis, five hours from Memphis and Kansas City, and two hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Branson, Missouri.

Perhaps best of all, Bikes, Blues & BBQ is a non-profit organization that donates proceeds to area charities. This year, a new Harley Davidson Classic Road King will be raffled off September 30th with proceeds going to the Fayetteville Boys and Girls Club.

In 2005, Bikes, Blues & BBQ raised over $125,000 for local charities. In addition, this rally is good, clean fun. A lot of effort goes into keeping it family friendly and in keeping with community values.

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I am becoming increasingly concerned about the difficulties many working people are encountering in their quest for the American dream – home ownership.

Probably the most important factor is, as I have mentioned previously, wages have not kept up with land and construction costs. But there are additional factors that enter the picture – zoning regulations, density requirements, impact fees, and lack of incentives for developers to build smaller, more affordable homes. Several weeks ago, there was a feature article in the NW Arkansas times about this issue in Fayetteville, but the problem stretches across NW Arkansas.

In Fayetteville, a contributing factor is tree canopy regulations. I agree that an essential part of Fayetteville's flavor is the trees. On the one hand, the rules that developers must follow make sense to me. But conversely, following those rules costs a lot of money that gets added to the sales price of the home.

Impact fees provide the funding for roads, water and sewers, police and fire protection, public parks, etc. No one argues the necessity for this infrastructure but the impact fees add several thousand dollars to the cost of each and every new home built, regardless of the value of the home. Essentially this is a regressive tax. Why not have a sliding scale for impact fees? Lower the fees for an affordable home and increase the fees as the value of home increases.

If NW Arkansas is to continue growing and prospering, we must find a way for the average worker to own an average home. Lack of attainable housing for workers puts serious constraints on growth. Employers cannot fill jobs if the workers cannot afford to live within a reasonable distance of their workplace.

I frequently hear complaints from residents who don’t want lower-cost higher-density neighborhoods built next to their more affluent neighborhood. But let’s face facts, folks, not everyone has a high-paying job. We need people who are willing and able to work at ALL of the available jobs. We need truck drivers to bring food to stores, we need factory workers to build products, we need hospital and restaurant workers, janitors, daycare workers, construction workers, store clerks and thousands of other workers. Without these people, very few of us would want to live here. Let’s be realistic – the average worker needs and wants a home just as much as a more affluent person.

It is imperative that cities establish criteria and develop policies that will encourage and enable builders to build more modest homes. This situation deserves serious consideration and action now. Let’s not waste several more years while we just talk about the problem.

There are many ways to make housing more attainable for working people. Perhaps it’s time to consider neighborhoods with row houses. Or, consider detached homes with less space between each one. Duplexes or quadplexes would be another idea. Built more as permanent homes instead of basic rental units, these multi-unit homes would be affordable because the owners could live in one unit while rental income would provide funds for the mortgage payment.

Condos can be another affordable way to own a home. Developers, especially in Fayetteville, are building condos at a record pace, but I can’t think of any that will be for the average working person. In many other parts of the country condos are affordable and desirable. Building costs are less per square foot, outside maintenance is usually taken care of by the homeowner’s association, and many condo communities share amenities such as a swimming pool that the average person could not otherwise afford.

However, after all this is said, housing is available in NW Arkansas if you know how to find it. Currently, there are some 150 homes available for less than $150,000. This includes lovely, desirable resale homes and even some brand new homes. You can get more information about them by going to my home search websites at http://www.findfayettevillehomes.com/ or http://www.nwarkansashomesearch.com/.

To find out how much home you can afford based on your annual salary, go to http://www.findfayettevillehomes.com/ and click on "Home Buying Calculator" in the Info Center at the right of the home page. Take a look at some of the other information and calculators while you’re there.

I can help you find a home – this is exactly what I do. It’s my full-time career. I am a Accredited Buyer Representative® (ABR®) and I represent buyers at no extra cost (commissions for homes listed by a Realtor® are included in the selling price of the home.)

Contact me at judy@judyluna.com. Helping people find a home they want and can afford is the most satisfying part of my job. I would be happy to help you do the same.

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