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LR sales tax committee reviews spending plans

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published June 20, 2012 at 12:18 p.m. Updated June 20, 2012 at 12:38 p.m.

city-manager-bruce-moore-right-speaks-during-the-lr-cent-meeting-wednesday-while-gary-smith-co-chair-of-the-committee-looks-on

City manager Bruce Moore, right, speaks during the LR CENT meeting Wednesday while Gary Smith, co-chair of the committee, looks on.

— A citizens advisory committee established to monitor how Little Rock's increased sales tax is spent is holding its second meeting, hearing reports on how several city agencies will use the additional revenue.

Sales tax collections through March are up about 4.5 percent from last year, though a city finance official said it's too early to analyze the data. February 2011 spending was down because of wintry weather, she said, adding the amount collected varies at different times of the year, including just before school starts and the holiday shopping period.

The committee met for the first time in April and was scheduled Wednesday to hear from departments that didn't present then, including the Little Rock Fire Department and the departments of public works and parks and recreation.

Fire chief Greg Summers told the group the tax would allow his agency to maintain 18 positions hired with a grant and to add 36 additional firefighters beyond those. Sales tax money will also be used for new fire stations in west Little Rock and southwest Little Rock and for new fire vehicles.

Summers said the new hires and stations are part of a plan to better the agency's insurance rating, which he said will ultimately require adding four more fire stations.

Parks and Recreation Director Truman Tolefree said tax money will fund filling 9 vacant positions and create 15 additional positions, which will increase monthly maintenance at the city's 59 parks.

Voters approved the tax increase last September, raising the sales tax from a half percent to 1.5 percent.

Twelve people serve on the advisory committee, which is dubbed LR CENT for Little Rock Citizens Evaluation of New Tax.

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