Sebastian County to Decide on Penny Tax

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Early voting starts Tuesday (May 7) as voters in Sebastian County decide whether to continue a one cent sales tax which was first approved in 1994. Voters renewed the tax again in 2004.

The tax benefits all of Sebastian County, including the city of Fort Smith. The money is distributed within the county and its eleven cities based on their share of the county's population.

"The main usage is public safety," explained Sebastian County Judge David Hudson.
"That would be law enforcement. That would be fire protection. As well as the criminal justice system and the juvenile detention center."

Other programs that benefit from the Sebastian County penny tax include park programs, library programs and downtown improvements.

"There's no doubt there's a benefit," Bob Newbold, who heads the River Valley Tea Party, said. "But what did they do before in 1994 when they didn't have the one percent? How did the police departments operate? Nobody can tell me that."

"There would be a very significant impact on the quality and stability of local government services in all eleven cities, and in county government without the continuation of this existing tax," Hudson said.

Newbold told 5NEWS he is neutral on the county-wide sales tax, but added that the majority of the group does not want the tax continuation to go through.

"About 75% of the folks I've talked to have opposed it," Newbold said. "But, they're opposed to any tax. It wouldn't matter it would be."

A vote for the tax will continue it for another 10 years. A vote against the tax will end it, effective mid-2014.

The public will vote on the continuation of this sales tax during a special election on May 14.