Bryant gets the media spin on tax vote | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bryant gets the media spin on tax vote

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2016 at 7:11 AM

click to enlarge MAYOR JILL DABBS: Backs reauthorizing property tax for city improvements. Otherwise, it would expire in less than three years.
  • MAYOR JILL DABBS: Backs reauthorizing property tax for city improvements. Otherwise, it would expire in less than three years.
Perusing Twitter this morning I noticed a media report that the city of Bryant had proposed a "tax-free way to pay for projects."

Shazam! There IS a free lunch!

Actually, no.

The media outlet merely had been well-spun by the city of Bryant on the City Council's vote this week to set a special election Aug. 9 to continue a 1.9-mill property tax approved in 2006 for a variety of city improvements. Bryant has been growing explosively. The amount of property assessed for tax purposes has risen dramatically. A bond issue supported by that tax that was to be paid off in 2031 is now on target for payoff in less than three years, in 2019. Rather than allow that tax to expire (and cut taxes to residents by $23 million a year), the Council has voted to ask voters to continue the tax to pay for other needed city improvements.

So while the city tax rate won't increase if voters approve, the new projects will NOT be tax-free. Growing Bryant has many needs. Among the projects to be funded are two new fire stations, improvements to existing parks plus construction of a new one, street improvements and more. Sounds fine to me. Just don't believe they come at no cost in taxes.

Also noted: A city led by Mayor Jill "Republican" Dabbs will have a vote on a new tax for the years 2019 and beyond at one of those special elections that Republicans normally hate so much. You know, taxes are supposed to be on the ballot in general elections, when the turnout is greater and less likely to be influenced by targeted get-out-the-vote efforts by special interests. Nate Bell/Johnny Key, where are you? If general elections are preferred for school millages, why not city millages?

The news release on this was a masterwork of spin and so I can't blame a reporter for being misled on this morning's Tweet. Mayor Dabbs' news release on the Council vote, issuing praise all around, somehow neglected to mention the property tax millage rate that will be assessed to pay for these improvements. The rate of 1.9 mills is not a big bite — about $60 a year on a $150,000 home. The news releases invoked the dreaded word taxes only once — in saying, somewhat misleadingly I'd argue, the projects were possible "without passing any additional taxes." Voters are being asked to authorize many additional years of taxes than otherwise currently obligated.

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