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Little Rock Board Of Directors Approves Spending Outline For 1% Sales Tax

Sarah Kellogg - KUAR News

Little Rock voters who will decide whether or not to approve a 1% sales and use tax will now have an idea of how the funds would be actually spent.

During a specially-called meeting on Tuesday, the Little Rock Board of Directors voted 6-4 to approve a resolution outlining how tax dollars would be spent if voters approve the tax during a special election on Sept. 14.

The passing vote comes two weeks after the board did not have enough votes to pass the same resolution, but did vote for the ordinance that called for the special election in the first place and one that implemented a sunset date for the tax so that if passed, it would still expire after 10 years.

The resolution lists 10 categories that will receive a portion of the estimated $530 million the city is expected to accrue from the proposed tax. The resolution also details how much funding each category is expected to get as well as what projects the funding will be spent on.

One of the categories of spending listed in the resolution is Early Childhood Education, where an estimated $40 million would be allotted.

In speaking on this section of the resolution, City Director Dean Kumpuris said the money initially earned from this tax would not go towards early childhood education vouchers, but toward creating "centers of excellence" in collaboration with four Little Rock education institutions including Philander Smith College and Pulaski Tech.

According to Kumpuris, as far as he knows, this proposal has not been attempted anywhere else in the country.

"I think that this would be, if done correctly, a very innovative program that may well set us apart from anybody else. And that’s not ever the reason to do anything, but if it works, then it can be duplicated pretty easily anywhere in the United States. And I’m willing to take the risk to spend this much money to do this," Kumpuris said.

Speaking before the vote on the resolution, City Director and Vice Mayor Lance Hines said he was disappointed in the actions of some of his fellow board members and spoke against the tax.

"This resolution, they way we’re spending this money is not in the best interest of this city, our citizens or its employees," Hines said.

Before the vote on the proposal, Hines also made motions to table voting on the resolution until the next meeting and to amend the resolution itself. Both motions failed.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said he was grateful to the board for their approving votes on the tax proposal and said the proposal itself included the “necessary components” to further transform Little Rock.

"Many of these improvements are a direct result of what residents have told me they want and need. We will also have robust oversight of these dollars, just as the City of Little Rock has done in the past. I look forward to engaging more residents about this important election and why we so desperately need to invest in us," Scott said,

If voters do approve the tax, it would go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022

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