Council Considering “Hamburger Tax” to Raise Money for Fire, Police and Streets

Mar 15th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Top Story

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By Lee “Cat” McLane

Editor/Publisher

One of the main topics of conversation at Monday night’s regular monthly council meeting was money - or lack thereof.  Mayor Mike Robertson brought up the idea - which had been lightly discussed at previous council meetings - the possibility of initiating a “hamburger tax” - or prepared food and room tax in the city. The issue would go to the voters in November if the council approves the measure at next month’s council meeting. The amount of tax was not decided but one percent and two percent were discussed.  It was stated at the meeting that Cabot has a 1.5% tax on prepared food and 1.5% tax on rooms in motels. Jacksonville has a 2% tax on each.

The mayor said that we can’t know exactly how much we might get each month on those revenues because the city does not have access to the sales figures of local food businesses or motel revenue. He later said that it might be up to $100,000 per year.  The council agreed to think about it and decide at the next council meeting.

Just after that discussion, Lt. Brian Duke of the Beebe Police Dept. gave a presentation along with Asst. Fire Chief Rick Jackson stating the vehicle and equipment needs of those departments.  Lt. Duke told the council that he had found a firm that   leases to municipalities and government agencies which would lease to the city, 6 police vehicles and one fire vehicle for a price of $48,175.81 per year for five years. At the end of that time the city would own the vehicles. The police want police -equipped Chevy Tahoes and showed a video of the manoeuverability of them. Asst. Chief Jackson gave a detailed report on the state of the fire department’s equipment and the age of each and the estimated replacement costs.  Jackson even stated that the city’s current I.S.O. rating - which allows a reduced home insurance premium due to the preparedness of the fire dept. and their equipment - might decline, thereby costing the homeowners in the city more money for their insurance.  He posed the idea of paying for these improvements for both the police and fire by directing 7% each of the revenues from the monthly city and county sales tax revenues. This would provide about $5,500 for each dept. per month.

Lt. Duke told the council that the repairs for the current vehicles were about $33,000 per year and the city would be using this amount towards the lease.

The council did not immediately respond but Mayor Robertson said that he realized that newer vehicles were needed as well as replacing equipment for the fire department but that the revenue from the sales tax each month had already been budgeted for items.

Mayor Robertson said that if the proposed hamburger tax passes, the money might be available in 2013 and more money might be available once Walmart was up and running due to increased sales tax revenue.

“We don’t have a lot of excess - we have $100,000 - but that is for street paving and that’s not a lot,” Mayor Robertson said.  “I don’t see this happening in 2012 - but in 2014 it might but if we have the hamburger tax in 2013, it might work.”

Most of the council members did not offer any options at this time.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved spending $72,440 to pave Campbell Dr. from Hwy. 64 to Kamak by Cox Paving. The mayor asked the council to bring a list of 3 or 4 streets to the next council meeting so that a list of streets to be paved could be determined.

In other action, the council:

•  Approved condemnation of property at 901 N. Main

•  Approved paying $36,000 to Vernon and Gail Carter for the #3 Fire Station off Hwy. 64 West

•  Agreed not to close the railroad crossing at Apple Street - as the railroad had suggested. The mayor said it would only take 8-ft. of paving on one side to prevent future accidents.

•  Tabled the issue of the old Powell & Co. building as to what to do to make it safe - as the owner has not been able to be reached.

• Approved Ord. 2012-07, amending zoning ord. for property at 203 Hwy. 64 W from R1 to R4.

•  Approved Ord. 2012-08, an ord. providing for a flood damage prevention program, as determined by FEMA.

•  Approved Resol. 2012-04, condemning property - certain bldgs., owned by Jim Wakefield, located on Hwy. 64 W.

The next council meetings will be April 16 & May 21.