The Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods has written Mayor Frank Scott Jr. asking him to delay a vote Tuesday on a proposal for a special election on a one-cent city sales tax so that there’s time to answer more questions.
Scott has proposed the one-cent increase, which would raise about $53 million a year and has outlined a plan to spend the money over 10 years. The City Board is scheduled at a meeting at 4 p.m. to decide whether to call an election July 23.
A letter from the Coalition by President Kathy Wells said the coalition supports some of the ideas, such as spending $4 million a year on early childhood education, but has more questions about the program. It also notes that the resolution of intent on spending is not binding. The letter says it prefers specifics on ballot questions to guarantee the spending. It also says it might be best to wait on an election until an expected $17.5 million in federal stimulus money is distributed to the city because it could apply to some of the projects outlined in the tax proposal.
The group is interested in infrastructure, but has questions about whether those needs should be covered by a tax that sunsets, rather than a permanent levy.
Other questions she put to the mayor from the group (some based on initial spending proposals that have undergone some revisions):
No transit funding is listed, and we would ask this to be addressed. Surely, our community needs expanded services.
Little Rock has a population of 197,318, living in 80,063 households, of which 44 percent are renter-occupied. A substantial number live at or below the poverty line. Court eviction filings were 130 in April, compared to 35 in April, 2020.
We researched debt burdens on our residents today. All utilities – water, sewer, trash, gas and electric companies – now do cutoffs again on delinquent accounts. All provide installment plans, 12 to 18 months, for paying the debt on top of paying current utilities. Low-income families face a year or more of paying these surcharges on all their accounts, in the worst cases. Some aid for renters is available, but falls short of the need. Why not delay a year on any sales-tax increase election?
Where in the city Master Parks Plan are found the projects listed in the 34 percent allocation for parks on the one-cent sales tax increase?
What is the proposed location of these parks projects not linked to a current park or facility? For example, where downtown is that 15-acre park to be built?
Where would the city build that indoor sports complex?
In the public safety category is listed community-oriented policing at $1 million annually; would that add such officers permanently?
Would the $1 million annually for public safety technology & operations expand police body cameras and memory storage?
The infrastructure listing is puzzling; what is a strategic improvement?
Where is an allotment for drainage money?
What is infrastructure targeted community development?
Would the street resurfacing money be allocated among the wards by the greatest need, as staff determined?
Would citizens again have the chance to request street resurfacing projects in their areas, in periodic public hearings, as has been done the past decade?
What type of program would get money from the early childhood education budget?
What capital projects would get economic development funding?
What information technology would be funded?
We have sadly-underfunded affordable housing programs today; would this $20 million be disbursed to homeowners under the current standards?
How much of this money would be spent on programs for the homeless, and would this go to current contractors of the city?
What would the Neighborhood Empowerment Capacity Fund provide at $500,000 annually?
What downtown parking decks need $10 million in capital spending?
Why does the city want to buy Markham St. property for $2 million?
Where is the Markham St. property?