PINE BLUFF, Ark. — The Pine Bluff City Council passed a resolution to take a slice from voter-approved sales tax pushed by the organization "Go Forward Pine Bluff" and use it for general budget items.
The move raised alarms for the public/private partnership, who questions whether promises made to taxpayers will be upheld.
"It is a beginning proposal that begins the conversation of how do we address some of the urgent needs of Pine Bluff," said Bruce Lockett.
Lockett is a city councilor from Ward 4, who voted to use about $2-million dollars to plug holes in the police, fire, and storm water budgets.
"This is a political season, and a lot of things happen during that season," said Ryan Watley, the CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff. "There's posturing and just unexpected things in a political climate."
The resolution was unexpected to Watley. He spent Wednesday in meetings with various stakeholders. He said he anticipated a solution.
Lockett called the resolution a first step in a longer process.
"It was a suggestion of some of the things that need be addressed," he said. "We still have much time to negotiate, renegotiate, and come up with a total budget for 2020."
"We're not looking for compromise," countered Watley. "There's no reason to compromise because the citizens came together. They passed a vote. It isn't a 'let's think about doing this or that.' There's a specific purpose for the dollars."
Voters can't be faulted for thinking the specific purpose would be revitalization efforts, like a new aquatics center built across from city hall, but the language on the ballot title never specified a target for the money, giving the city council the opening.
"They'll get some things and we'll get some things, but the tax is not a Go Forward tax," said Lockett. "It's a tax for general purposes."
While both Watley and Lockett expect a resolution, Watley has a warning for the council: beware the wrath of voters in this political season.
"I do anticipate the city council members being held accountable to their constituents," he said. "It passed by over 70% in every ward."