Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TOP STORY >> Sherwood decides to delay tax vote

Leader staff writer

There will be no vote in Sherwood on raising the sales tax to fund a new library and animal shelter until at least May 2012.

In a 5-3 vote Monday night the council decided to wait until the next primary election and save the city up to $15,000 in election costs.

Alderman Tim McMinn, who pushed for the delay, said he had no problem with the idea of a new library and animal shelter.

“Both are essential parts of the community, but the cost of living is going up. Even though the price of gas has dropped this past week, we all know it’s going to go back up and with all the flooding there will be a major food increases. There are just a lot of factors to look at,” he said.

McMinn continued, “The people will still get to vote on the issue,” adding that 1 percent may not sound like a lot but it adds up.

“Timing is everything and right now is not the time to ask for a tax increase,” he told the council and a full chamber of guests.

“A special election will cost the city. Can’t we defer this until the primary election in 2012 and then there’ll be no cost to the city,” McMinn suggested.

He still felt that way after being told by the mayor that the Central Arkansas Library System, of which Sherwood is a part of, would be willing to pay for half the special-election costs.

Supporters of the library and animal shelter were hoping the council would approve the idea of the two-year, one-cent temporary sales tax and set a special election as only residents can actually approve a tax hike.

The tax, according to City Clerk and Treasurer Angela Nicholson, would bring in about $4.7 million.

Bobbie Roberts, president of CALS, said the new library would cost about $3.8 million to build, stock and furnish. His estimate did not include the purchase of the land. He recommended at least two to three acres.

No cost was brought up for the plans of a new “state-of-the-art” animal shelter.

Any leftover funds from the tax would go for road repair and maintenance.

Alderman Steve Fender made it clear before the vote was taken on the issue that he would vote no to raising taxes. “There’s never a good time to raise taxes and this is an especially bad time,” he said.

Fender said he would love to see the library go forward, but philosophically couldn’t vote for it.

Alderman Ken Keplinger was leaning toward setting up the special election even though a survey he did showed people were in a 50-50 split over the idea.

“I had my doubts about the CALS survey, so I went to Walmart and asked the same questions,” he explained.

His finding showed people were more in favor of the animal shelter than the library.

“But what I found out talking to the people was that for every one person who was a Sherwood resident, three were not. So we would have a lot of non-Sherwood people paying this tax, and that’s a good thing.”

Roberts told the council that the library was 22 years old and was “doing all it could with what it has.”

He called the Amy Sanders Library an energy hog and non- ADA compliant. Roberts said it had no wireless technology and no room to expand.

Roberts said that since 1993, “basically the start of the Internet, usage had gone up 178 percent and computer use up 1,265 percent.”

He also said 54 percent of the city resident’s were card carrying members of the library.

“It’s hit a plateau. Now it’s a community decision whether or not to take the next step and join the other communities that have new libraries,” Roberts said.

He added the biggest expense of a library is the cost of running it “and you are already paying for that.”

Voting to delay the election on the tax issue to at least May of next year were aldermen McMinn, Fender, Kevin Lilly, Toni Butler and Mary Jo Heye.

Against the delay were aldermen Keplinger, Charlie Harmon and Marina Brooks.