Little Rock City Hall Brian Chilson

A community meeting at the West Central Community Center in Little Rock’s Ward 6 on Thursday ended city leaders’ “listening tour” to discuss the extension of the city’s dedicated 3 mills property tax for capital projects. If voters approve the millage renewal, the city will issue bonds to raise $161.8 million to pay for citywide improvements in six areas, all of which will appear as separate ballot questions:

*$40.5 million for streets.

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*$40.5 million for drainage.

*$19.5 million for fire apparatus.

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*$24.6 million for parks and recreation and $12.3 million for the zoo

*$8.5 million for a new District Court building.

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$15.8 million for Port of Little Rock.

City officials explained six ballot questions to residents, many of whom in turn shared concerns about their living conditions.

Residents complained about overgrown drainage runoffs bringing snakes into their yard and flooding breaking fences. Several said they wanted a community pool at the West Central Community Center and a refresh to playground equipment at their neighborhood parks. Others pushed for measures to slow traffic in residential areas. Directors Doris Wright, B.J. Wyrick and Joan Adcock were all in attendance.  

The city plans to issue bonds with a stated term of 20 years, which means that the money allocated for each issue will be spent during that timeline. The tax vote won’t raise citizen’s property taxes, only ensure they pay the same rate longer.

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Where does the money go?

During each presentation of each ballot question, officials explained how the funds would be used, and why the improvements were necessary.

Within the combined allocation for both streets and drainage, most of the funds — about $72 million — would be divided among the seven wards to be put directly into the communities, Jon Honeywell, director of the Public Works Department, said. That would allow for about $10 million of improvements in each ward. The remaining amount would address citywide projects.

The $19.5 million allocated for the fire apparatus improvement would provide for the purchase of five aerial ladder trucks and 14 water trucks called pumpers. About 45% of the city’s fleet would be updated, many of which are more than 20 years old and extend past the longevity of a firetruck.

For the fire department, this update is “critical. Not a want, but a need,” said Chief Delphone Hubbard.

Parks and Recreation has several projects planned for the $24.6 million it will receive, Director Leland Couch said. Updates to neighborhood and regional parks as well as community center upgrades and the establishment of a downtown I-30 park would be expected.

The $12.3 million allocation for the Little Rock Zoo would expand enclosures for the animals, and enhance guest experience, Director Susan Altrui said.

“Other places have moved on. We no longer fit modern design,” Altrui said of the zoo, founded in 1926.

The city also needs a new District Court building. With three judges and only two courtrooms, no conference rooms and mold — Little Rock District Court would use its $8.5 million allocation to build the city’s first proper municipal courthouse.

Where the courts are now — an almost windowless building with leaks and ventilation issues — is “a building that [nobody] has been proud of for a really long time,” Traffic Judge Vic Fleming said.

Finally, the Port of Little Rock would receive $15.8 to continue the expansion of land for business opportunities.