Collections are down slightly on the voluntary millage taxes based on figures from 2008 and 2009, but officials are not alarmed. 

Faulkner County Tax Collector Steve Simon said it would be hard to predict what the final collection numbers would be. 

"It is hard to tell until we collect," Simon said. 

Voluntary taxes support organizations that perform community services that benefit all Faulkner County residents, according to a flier sent out with taxes.

County treasurer Regina Oakley agreed. "It is hard to tell. Most people wait until close to Oct. 15," she said. "They could be up or down."

According to figures from Simon’s office, revenues from the accounts collected from March until July are down in eight of nine tax accounts. 

The County Emergency Squad account is the only voluntary tax account in which the collections have increased. Simon said this account had a millage increase from 0.4 mills to 1 mill. In this account, revenue rose from $8,500 in March through July of 2008 to almost $19,200 in 2009. 

According to Oakley, the other millages for the accounts are 1 percent museum commission, 1.5 percent animal welfare and control, 1 percent Faulkner soil conservation, 0.4 percent Conway city recreation, 0.4 percent Conway city cemetery, 0.2 percent Conway animal shelter, 0.7 percent Vilonia voluntary fund and 1 percent Mayflower City/Voluntary Fund.

A comparison for collections from March-July 2008 and the same period in 2009 shows the museum commission bringing $18,400 in taxes in 2008 and $16,441 in 2009; animal welfare, $28215 in 2008 and $25,602 in 2009; Faulkner soil conservation, $18,641 in 2008 and $16,655 in 2009; Conway city recreation, $4,213 in 2008 and $3,731 in 2009; Conway city cemetery, $4,133 in 2008 and $3,602 in 2009; Conway animal shelter, $2,211 in 2008 and $2,016 in 2009; Vilonia voluntary fund, $355 in 2008 and $288 in 2009; and Mayflower city/voluntary fund, $535 in 2008 and $448 in 2009.

Simon said when residents receive their tax bills, they can decide to pay the amount with or without the voluntary taxes. Residents can further decide which voluntary taxes, if any, they would like to pay and how much they would like to pay, Simon said.

"They can pick and choose the taxes they want to pay. They don’t even have to pay the full amount. They can pay what is on the bill or their own amount," he said. A flier inside the county’s tax bill also explains the voluntary taxes.

Voluntary taxes as passed by the Faulkner County Quorum Court. Simon said the first voluntary tax passed in the 1970s was the County Emergency Squad. The most recent was the County Animal Welfare and Control tax. 

"Most people don’t pay the voluntary taxes," he said, estimating that only 7 to 8 percent of people pay the taxes. "A lot just don’t have the money."

One voluntary tax that has seen some decline in revenue is the Conway City Cemetery Tax. The 0.4 mill tax is divided between three Conway cemeteries: Oak Grove, St. Joseph and Robinson. 

Jack Bell, assistant to the mayor of Conway, said the three cemeteries receive a portion of their millage depending on the size of the cemetery. Oak Grove, at 23.3 acres, receives 69 percent; St. Joseph, at 1.7 acres, 19 percent; and Robinson, at 4.1 acres, 12 percent. In 2007, Bell said Oak Grove Cemetery received $14,290 compared with $12,201 in 2008. So far in 2009, the cemetery has received $2,335. St. Joseph received $3,995 in 2007 compared with $3,359 in 2008 and $643 so far in 2009. Robinson received $2,485 in 2007 compared with $2,122 in 2008 and $406 in 2009.

"Most of the money comes in November," Bell said.

Chris Spatz, president of the Oak Grove Cemetery Board, said the tax money the cemetery receives is sporadic. 

"We are very dependent on the money," he said. In 2008, the revenue dropped for Oak Grove. This caused the board to dip into reserve funds. 

"When the voluntary tax was producing better, we built up cash reserves," Spatz said.

The voluntary tax money is used for grounds upkeep and maintenance. 

"Our principle expense is mowing," Spatz said.

Bell said for city accounts, the city council and quorum court approve the millage in November for the following year.

Simon acknowledged this year more people are paying their taxes earlier, noting the county had reached 15,000 receipts by Aug. 8 this year compared with Aug. 30 in 2008. All tax receipts brought in by the county are subject to a 10 percent fee. This fee is divided between the tax collector, tax assessor and the county treasurer. Simon said the money helps fund those county offices. Any money not used is returned to the account from which it came.

"Half of it ends up back in the hands of the account," Simon said.

(Staff writer Holly Latimer can be reached by e-mail at holly.latimer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)