TEXARKANA, Ark. -- The city Board of Directors on Monday voted to increase from $400,000 to $650,000 the money the city will borrow to make improvements to Front Street Festival Plaza.
With Ward 6 Director Jeff Hart absent, the board voted unanimously for the resolution passed. Specifically, the measure authorizes City Manager Jay Ellington to seek bond issuance proposals in the larger amount. The city will use a financing option provided by the Arkansas Constitution's Amendment 78, passed in 2005, to borrow the funds.
The amendment allows cities to create redevelopment zones and issue bonds to fund improvements in them. Any increases in property tax revenue within a redevelopment zone after its establishment are then used to repay the bond debt.
The idea is for improvements to pay for themselves via the increases in property valuations they presumably will cause. Texarkana, Texas, uses a similar concept to capture property tax revenues for use in two areas called tax increment reinvestment zones.
The board approved $400,000 of debt for the project as part of the current fiscal year's budget, but unexpected increases in building costs prompted the request for more funding.
Plans to be paid for with the debt include a roofed scaffolding structure around the plaza's stage to facilitate sound and lighting equipment, as well as sponsor advertising; fencing around the area; and barriers called bollards to control traffic.
The Board also voted unanimously to indefinitely table a resolution requesting the Miller County Quorum Court max out the county road portion of its property tax levy at 3 mills. A mill is $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The Quorum Court's decision on the millage rate is not dependent on any action by the board, and Ward 1 Director Terry Roberts cited separation of city and county governments in moving to table the resolution.
"When we were looking at our water rate increases and anything else, the county didn't have a say in that. And ultimately, the decision is the Quorum Court's not the city board's. And I don't feel as a board we should be getting involved in another entity's way they handle their business. I think each one of us, if we have our our preference, we each have JPs in our ward that we can speak to individually," Roberts said.
Ellington had said the request was justified because the Arkansas Department of Transportation is reluctant to provide road funding to counties in which the road millage is less than the maximum allowed by state statute. But Mayor Allen Brown rejected that rationale.
"It's my understanding that in reaching out to our state senator, our state representative, the Association of Counties, as well as the Municipal League, there is no movement to reduce funding. ... I don't see that as a reason to pass it. I don't see any reason that we're in jeopardy of losing any type funding," Brown said.
The current levy is 0.5 mills, with 0.3 going to the city and 0.2 to the county. The resolution would have requested a split of 1.8 mills to the city and 1.2 to the county, increasing related annual revenue from $85,000 to $420,000 for the county and from $127,000 to $630,000 for the city, approximately.