Maumelle residents weigh in on sales tax increase

Parts of the meeting got heated, as many people expressed concern.

MAUMELLE, Ark. (KTHV) – People who live in Maumelle have the opportunity to vote on a sales tax increase in a special election in March.

The city hosted a town hall meeting Thursday, Jan. 18 for residents to hear exactly what the city has planned if it passes.

“Nobody likes the word tax and I understand that,” Ward 4 city councilman John Vaprezsan said.

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Parts of the meeting got heated, as many people expressed concern.

"I'm very much against this I think they're going about it the wrong way. They're expecting too much,” Barbara Soden said.

The plan involves a pair of one-half percentage point sales tax increases. One half-cent will be used for safety and emergency personnel and it would eliminate the current community service fee.

Maumelle is the only city in Arkansas that still has a community service fee in place.

“Here in Maumelle, we have some wonderful uniformed personnel, but they are quite a bit under-paid as compared to Little Rock,” Vaprezsan said. “We would like to see their pay scale on a more comparable scale to local municipalities, so we can keep the officers we have.”

The other half-cent sales tax would go towards community development. Vaprezsan said the city would like to invest in the north end of town.

“The north end of town would give us instant access to some commercial properties to help generate revenue,” he said.

Part of the sales tax would also fund the I-40 construction at Counts Massie Road, creating a third entrance into Maumelle.

"If you live in Maumelle, you know that it's needed when it takes you 30 to 40 minutes just to go two miles just down the boulevard,” Mike Ragsdale said.

Traffic congestion during rush hour on Maumelle Boulevard has been a common complaint among people in town.

"I never leave between seven and nine [in the morning] because I know what it's like going into Little Rock,” Harold Sharp said.

Vaprezsan said this tax increase is needed because it may be a while before the state gives the city any money for these projects.

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"We've been told that it would be until at least 2022 before we would even be looked at again,” Vaprezsan said. "We have to take this in our own hands and if we don't do something now its gonna be a lot longer before we can do anything."

Some people feel the tax could be a good thing.

“I think it'll generate revenue the city needs,” Ragsdale said.

But others feel the city is asking too much from the people who live in Maumelle.

"A majority of the people that pay the sales tax here are the citizens and we have a lot of seniors, we have a lot of young families, this is a burden on all of them,” Barbara Soden said.

Maumelle will host a second town hall meeting in February before citizens vote on the issue March 13.