HELENA-WEST HELENA – Voters narrowly approved a single, two-cent sales tax increase here just over a year after they rejected two separate proposals to raise the sales tax by 1 percentage point.
The increase – which will raise the total sales tax charged in the city to 10 percent – passed by a 125 vote margin Tuesday, with 1,555 votes for the tax and 1,430 casting their ballots against the tax.
The city’s voters also supported refinancing bonds issued for the city’s landfill. A total of 1,492 voters supported refinancing the bonds issued for the city’s landfill and 1,415 voted against the measure.
After counting the ballots, city employees celebrated cheering that “two cents make sense.”
City officials have said that the additional money would be earmarked for several uses. They include paying off about $1.2 million in debt, hiring new police officers and firefighters, paving streets, buying new fire and sanitation equipment, tearing down dilapidated houses, improving parks, improving general city maintenance and building a city reserve fund.
Opponents of the tax increase said it would provide more money to a city administration still in financial disarray 16 months after the merger of two cities that had formerly been rivals, Helena and West Helena.
They also say the increase would be a burden on the poor in a community where more than a quarter of the population lives in poverty.
In April 2006, two-thirds of voters rejected two separate 1 percent sales taxes.