Fort Smith Residents Forming Opposition Group To Sales Tax Increase For U.S. Marshals Museum

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) —Voters will decide whether they want a temporary one-cent sales tax increase to benefit the completion of the U.S. Marshals Museum during a special election on March 12th.

Lawyer Joey McCutchen and tax accountant Robbie Wilson say a lot of people have expressed interest in forming an opposition group.

"We're standing up for the people of Fort Smith who have been left behind by the city on countless projects and failures in the past. And we don't want to see them left holding the bag on a project that was promised to be a privately funded endeavor," said Wilson.

They say they're not opposed to the idea of the museum, but stand against the proposed sales tax increase.

"One of the main missions in this is to inform the voters and get those questions answered that are out there that people want to know because those questions weren`t answered in some of the other boondoggles, we hard in Fort Smith and we`re still paying for it," said McCutchen.

So far, the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation has raised 35 million dollars in donations but are asking for about $16 million more to complete exhibits.

"We did not want to go this route until we got to the end of our fund-raising efforts and we want to go on and bring the benefits to Fort Smith, and this will happen if this tax is passed," said Jim Dunn, President of the Marshals Museum Foundation.

Dunn says the museum will be a community asset, provide educational opportunities and be a boom to economic development. He says from the very beginning, the project was meant to be a private/public partnership.

"What was said was we would not seek a taxpayer participation in the operations of the museum once it started," said Dunn.

On the other side, these Fort Smith residents say they will be voting no at the polls.

"We don't need another tax. We've already got one of the highest sales taxes in the country, certainly, Fort Smith has one of the highest in the state, we don't need an increase in the sales tax," said McCutchen.

The opposition group is hosting a meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Fort Smith Public Library.

You can also hear from representatives with the museum before the special election.

Community meetings have been scheduled for February 13 at the senior center on Cavanaugh St. and also February 26 at MLK Park.

Early voting for the special election starts March 5.

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