Battle Heats Up Over Sales Tax Proposal in Washington County

If the quarter-cent sales tax passes in Washington County on May 22, funding will go to Ozark Regional Transit.

Supporters rallied at the Northwest Arkansas Mall bus stop with posters. They said it benefits everyone, even those who don’t ride the bus.

“It`s going to mean that there are fewer cars on the road for them to have to maneuver around, the parking lot won’t always be full, their air will be cleaner too,” said David Orr, member of the environmental group the Sierra Club.

According to Ozark Regional Transit, there’s a 35 percent increase in ridership every year. Supporters said the agency needs financial help to expand bus services to provide nighttime and weekend rides.

“There’s no way that people who work odd hours, or people who want to go out at night, or people who want to go out on the weekends can use the bus,” said Lynn Carver, member of Advocates for Public Transit.

However, there are those against the tax who also came with posters ready to drive their point home. They said there isn’t a need to expand routes and services.

“We have a giant carbon footprint running around town. For those environmentalists, there are empty buses, four times as many empty buses,” said Chairman Jeff Oland with the Washington County Tea Party.

Oland said he’s not  opposed to the bus system, but don’t see a need to expand its services. Oland added, taxes are high enough and voters again in November will face a tax issue on the ballot.

“If this tax goes up a quarter cent now, three quarters later, when you add in the half percent in November then you are talking the top three in the country for tax,” Oland said.

It is estimated that the sales tax would generate around seven million dollars a year.

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