Siloam Springs Officials Relieved Tax Measure Passes

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A proposal to redirect Siloam Springs’ existing 1 percent sales tax to include funding for police and the fire department passed Tuesday night in a special election, in a result officials say will help several aspects of city operations.

Voters approved the redirection 68 percent to 32 percent. Results show 454 people voted for the proposal, while 210 voted against it, according to the Benton County Election Commission.

The current police department is old and outdated. There are leaks in parts of the roof. However, with funds headed their way, the Siloam Springs Police Department is getting a new home.

"It's very exciting because it gives us something to plan for," said Police Chief Joe Garrett. "It's like having a checkbook and being able to budget in advance."

The new building is located on U.S. Highway 412 and is set to open in summer 2014. But it's not the only thing the one cent sales tax will help upgrade.

"We'll be able to replace vests, weapons, tactical gear and other items that we needed for some time," Garrett said.

The fire department will also get a cut. Firefighters would like to upgrade a ladder truck, replace older engines and get a new rescue truck.

The department also has two fire stations in desperate need of repairs.

"We have fire stations currently that don't meet city code, said Chief Greg Neely. "They don't have ADA compliance. They don't have facilities for female firefighters, and we just need to update those facilities."

Siloam Springs’ existing one cent sales tax puts 80 percent of its revenue toward city streets, while allocating 20 percent for administrative costs. The proposal passed Tuesday night shifts the percentages to included fire department and police costs.

The way the city was able to cut part of the funding for street project was by getting into the construction business.

"Other cities our size don't do street work themselves. They contract everything out," said Holland Hayden, Siloam Springs' communications director. "We are going to be saving $75,000 to $100,000 per mile."

Under the new system, 40 percent of sales tax revenue will go toward fire and police; 40 percent is set to go toward streets; and 20 percent will be set aside for administrative costs, according to the City of Siloam Springs.

City administrators said the measure will not increase taxes.

"We're going to get out there and we're going to prove why this reallocation is going to work," Hayden said.

Hayden said the one cent sales tax brings in an average of $2.8 million. The changes go into effect Nov. 1st.