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City officials float sales tax increase in Little Rock's Ward 2

Residents of Ward 2 gather to listen to members from the city government explain the tax increase proposal.
Josie Lenora
Residents of Ward 2 gather to listen to city officials explain a proposed 1% sales tax increase at the Southwest Community Center on Wednesday.

City officials are traveling around Little Rock advocating for a proposed sales tax increase.

On Wednesday, voters from Ward 2 gathered at the Southwest Community Center to listen to city officials explain the proposal. Despite the venue name, Ward 2 covers the southern and southeastern part of Little Rock.

The tax increase will add an additional 1%, or one penny, increase to the city's current 8.6% sales tax rate. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. told residents the city needs more revenue to accommodate a growing population.

“So, when you go to the grocery store you may spend $100 and when taxes are put on, you may pay $109,” he said. “The City of Little Rock only gets about a dollar of that $109 to pay for our police, our fire, our roads, and our parks.”

He said people reach out to him about weak infrastructure in the city.

“We're working on it, but we could work on it a whole lot faster if we have more money.”

The money is planned to go toward the Little Rock Port, infrastructure improvements, parks and public safety. Police Chief Heath Helton says his department is short-staffed by over 60 people. He says police are dealing with a large unhoused population and mental health calls which can tie needed officers up for hours.

“We’re very blessed earlier this year. The City Board and the mayor gave us the ability to purchase 107 vehicles,” he said. “Not enough, I need more.”

Little Rock Fire Chief Delphone Hubbard said he had the same problem.

“These fire trucks are not cheap,” he said holding up a blow-up picture of a fire engine and estimating they can cost over $1 million.

Parks and Recreation Director Leland Couch said parks are “challenged every day” when it comes to money. He said he wants to use the tax money for renovations for community centers and a “highly needed pickleball facility.”

“We really need some more tournament facilities," he said. "And that's going to help us generate revenue for the city.”

Mayor Scott said the sales tax would only be in effect for ten years and over time could pay out millions of dollars.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.