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GENTRY -- City council on Monday moved a proposed increase in Gentry's sales and use tax another step closer to reality, accepted the final plat for the Sunset Ridge subdivision and approved rate changes for fire services.

Passed on their second readings by the Gentry City Council on Monday were two ordinances connected with seeking to raise the sales and use tax in Gentry by 7/8 of one percent. One ordinance authorizes the additional tax if approved by Gentry voters, and the second ordinance places the measure on the November 6 general election ballot.

If approved on three readings by the council and then by voters in November, the sales tax increase would increase Gentry's local sales tax from 1 1/8 cents per dollar to 2 cents per dollar and would make Gentry's sales tax the same as the tax rate in Siloam Springs and numerous other local municipalities. The state tax rate is 6.5 percent, the county receives 1 percent, and the city currently receives 1.125 percent. The increase would raise the total sales tax rate in Gentry from 8.625 percent to 9.5 percent.

The dedicated breakdown being proposed in the ordinance is 1/8 cent for street improvements (including sidewalks and parking); 1/4 cent for public safety (police, fire and ambulance services); and 1/2 cent to the city's General Fund, to be used (though not specifically dedicated) for the evolving park master plan as needed for phases and for other city projects.

"Once the 'plan' is addressed, the half-cent will be utilized to support the operation and maintenance of the new system and our efforts to provide an excellent quality of life and a great sense of place for our community," Kevin Johnston, Gentry's mayor, said at a town hall meeting last spring.

This is not the first time the city council requested the increase. The council passed ordinances in 2014 to levy the additional tax, but the voters failed to approve it in the general election in November 2014. The 2014 bid for an additional 7/8 cent sales tax was defeated 347 to 252.

At the recommendation of the planning and zoning commission at a special meeting last week, the council on Monday approved the final plat of the Sunset Ridge subdivision on three readings with a single vote and with an emergency clause attached. The action will make it possible for the developer to sell lots and build new homes in the first phase of the development.

Also passed were ordinances adjusting the charges for non-member, non-emergency or standby fire department services to $100 per hour per truck and $20 per person per hour for labor. The old fees were $85 and $15. Connection and boring fees were adjusted to actual costs (including administration fees) on a case-by-case basis rather than using a set fee.

A resolution was passed authorizing the city to collect the actual costs plus a $10 handling fee to file paperwork with the county for such things as deeds, tract splits and final plats. The city plans to handle the filing and notify the property owners when all is filed and the paperwork is available for pickup at city hall.

A list of city-owned old and outdated equipment, including old computers, printers, typewriters, keyboards, cellphones and other electronics was presented to the council for disposal purposes, with the council approving the items be disposed of in accord with state law.

Kevin Johnston, Gentry's mayor, shared a letter in which the city is requesting assistance from the State Aid Street Committee for 12 surface and overlay projects within the city. Streets included in the request are S. Eastern, W. Fulton, N. Byers, N. Edmondson, S. Little, E. Crawford, Allen, Bloomfield, Crafton, Duckworth and Flint. The grant assistance comes from a 1/2 cent fuel tax. The city applied for and received $250,000 for street work three years ago and is hoping to receive the full amount again this year. According to Johnston, the streets are prioritized in the event the city does not receive the full amount. He also said the State Aid Committee would be looking at the city's proposed projects on July 19 and he hoped to possibly know more about assistance to be received by the August council meeting.

Johnston updated the council on the Dawn Hill East bridge project, saying things were close to the phase in which the full design work would be done, making way for actual construction to follow.

Also reported by Johnston was work done to obtain grants and financing through the United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a new above-ground water storage tank to supply water for the east side of Gentry's water service area and for the Simmons plant now under construction. At a committee meeting last week, council members urged Johnston to work together with Simmons to come up with a plan which was fair to all, with Simmons paying for the services the city will provide to its plant and not putting the burden on taxpayers but also not expecting Simmons to pay for costs which rightfully are the city's responsibility.

General News on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Council passes tax-increase proposal on second reading

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