STUTTGART, Ark. (AP) - Early voting begins Tuesday on a sales tax increase that would support Baptist Health Medical Center-Stuttgart.

If approved, the 1 percent tax increase would generate about $2.4 million annually for the Stuttgart hospital. Early voting begins Tuesday at the Arkansas County Courthouse in Stuttgart and continues until the March 11 special election.

The Stuttgart Daily Leader reports (http://bit.ly/Nr9liu) the Stuttgart City Council approved the election after a study detailed the hospital's budget woes. Officials say the hospital has experienced a revenue decline because of a drop in patients and cuts to government funding.

Officials say the new revenue would be used to buy medical equipment and to establish an e-link system that would allow specialists in Little Rock to assist in the treatment and diagnosis of patients in Stuttgart.

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