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Pine Bluff tax increase failure could impact fire department

After voters rejected a new dedicated sales tax, the fire chief in Pine Bluff has been trying to plan for the future without a big boost of money.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Pine Bluff Fire Chief Shauwn Howell is trying to plan for the future without a big boost of money after voters rejected a new dedicated sales tax.

The proposed three-eighth cents increase would've gone to salaries, equipment and improving facilities.

"The fire department has many needs," said Howell.

It's no secret what those ongoing needs are.

"One of our big needs are fire trucks," Howell said. "We need to upgrade our training facility so that we can train firefighters on a day-to-day basis."

According to Howell, a fire truck can cost between $700,000 to $1 million, which is why he was relying on the sales tax increase, proposed by Go Forward Pine Bluff.

"That would have been a big boost used to address those issues," Howell said.

With the rising cost of equipment, a pandemic-related problem hundreds are still facing, there could be challenges ahead.

"When you have these new expenses and you have stagnant funding, it's like we don't have additional funding," Howell said. "How do we address that?"

He's already looking ahead to next year.

"As we approach the 2024 budget," Howell said. "There will be some challenges as to how do we address some of those needs."

Howell said there's no threat to public safety and that firefighters will continue serving the community.

Since Go Forward Pine Bluff's tax proposal failed, Howell said he needs continued support from the community as the fire department works to find solutions.

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