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Mayor hopeful board will back vote on sales tax

by Joseph Flaherty | April 24, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK — Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says he believes a majority of the city board will support a proposal to "invest in our city's potential" by increasing the sales-tax rate through a special election.

"I think it's just a matter of the details of it," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "So I think we will get there as we move forward."

The mayor and city staff have asked city directors to call a special election for July 13, when voters will have the chance to adopt or reject the tax increase. But Board of Directors members seemed ready to slow-walk Scott's proposal during a meeting Tuesday evening.

The formal meeting was their first opportunity to review and potentially adopt measures that would lay out the structure of the tax increase and call for the special election.

A motion from at-large City Director Antwan Phillips to move the proposal to a second reading, thereby speeding up the process to allow city directors to vote to send the tax increase to the ballot, failed by a wide margin. Phillips and City Director Ken Richardson were the only city directors to vote yes.

Scott has said the measures that together comprise the tax increase will be reviewed again at a special meeting Tuesday. A second reading at that meeting will bring the package one step closer to a third reading and a final vote that will determine whether the city holds a special election.

The so-called Rebuild the Rock proposal from the mayor would add 1 percentage point to the city's sales-tax rate in order to fund a long list of quality-of-life improvements.

They include major renovations to War Memorial and Hindman parks plus a slew of new city facilities, such as a west Little Rock fire station and an indoor sports complex.

In light of the decision by city officials to let an existing three-eighths-percent sales tax for capital improvements sunset at the end of December, the city's sales-tax rate would increase by five-eighths of a percentage point starting in January 2022, provided voters approve the increase.

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