RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KATV) — The Russellville city council is now hoping to get a piece of the tax pie when a casino comes to the county.
Talks of annexing the proposed casino site were held on Tuesday and further discussions are planned.
Councilmember Larry Brown told KATV they’re in the preliminary stages of exploring the options of annexing the land.
As is, the county is set to take in quite a chunk of money in taxes, while the city would be left in the dark.
“The thing about it is to me, the casino will be developed…it’s the surrounding areas around there…what benefit is it going to be to the city?” Brown questioned. “If we sit back and don’t do anything, we’re not doing the right thing for the city.”
The proposed casino site, off I-40, is where the Cherokee Nations Business has set its eyes to develop a multi-million-dollar casino resort.
“If the casino is coming to our community and it’s going to tax city resources such as fire, police, as well as others but those are going to be your two main tax services, we need to figure out the best for the citizens of Russellville,” added council member, Mark Tripp.
Out of a $200 million net revenue projection, $29.5 million in taxes will be split. Part of the Arkansas law, that created two new casinos, mandates that 55 percent be disbursed to the state’s general revenue fund; 17.5 percent will go toward purse support, and 27.5 percent will go to the county and city hosting the casino.
Since the current land is outside of city limits, Pope County is expected to take home 27.5 percent; but now Russellville city council is considering their options.
If the land is annexed, 19.5 percent of taxes would go to the city while the county would collect eight percent.
City council members are discussing two options for annexing, either a voluntary annexation or a special election. A special election would allow for the citizens of Russellville and the people or property owners in the proposed annexed area to vote on this, however, Tripp is hoping for a voluntary annexation.
“I presume that they might want city police and fire protection,” said Tripp. “It’s probably in our best interest, plus their best interest to potentially work out a voluntary petition for an annexation agreement after a casino gaming license is issued so that it’s a win-win-win situation.”
A special election could be called by the city council, but a voluntary annexation would require the county’s approval.
When asked if he thought the county is playing ball with the city, Tripp took a long pause before answering, “Yes, we just need more communication and through the communication, we can all come out in the right direction on this.”
No decision has been made, but another “workshop” city council meeting is set for September 3. At workshop council meetings, no motions or votes are allowed.
KATV reached out to Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the Cherokee Nations Business but did not receive any callbacks.