Quitman council supports Issue 1, ups attorney's pay

Marisa Hicks staff photo

Alderman discuss the benefits of supporting Issue 1 in the 2020 General Election during the Quitman City Council meeting Monday night.

QUITMAN — Small-town officials approved a resolution that supports a would-be constitutional amendment that would make permanent a half-percent sales tax for highways and roadways and upped the Quitman city attorney’s pay for 2020.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said Issue 1 is his No. 1 priority headed into the 2020 campaign.

Now, city governments are deciding whether they support the issue.

During a special-called meeting Monday night, the Quitman City Council voted to support a resolution that would put the issue on the ballot in the 2020 General Election to keep the road tax from expiring.

“It’s not anything that we’re not all already paying, Quitman Mayor Cyndi Kerr said. “It’s not a tax that’s in addition to, it’s just a tax that will continue, which helps with the roads. It’s why we’re able to take carte of our roads as well as we do.”

Arkansas currently has a temporary half cent (0.5%) sales tax on gasoline sales that is split three ways:

• The state receives 70% of the funds.

• Counties are awarded 15%.

• City governments receive 15% of collections.

A city the size of Quitman (with a population of 763) would lose roughly $16,786 should the tax not be voted back in.

Legislators are looking for a permanent solution to the sunset tax and are hoping to make a constitutional amendment that would make the tax permanent.

If the permanent tax proposal is not approved by Arkansas voters in the 2020 election, the current highway tax sunsets on June 30, 2023.

“This is a large portion [of our funding],” Kerr said to the city’s alderman. “If they were to suspend this, it’s a large portion that our city would be missing out on.”

The council approved the resolution in support of the proposal 5-0, with Alderman Dennis Ezell absent.

In other business, the council also approved 5-0 to give Quitman City Attorney Blake Spears a 20 percent raise in the coming year.

Prior to the vote, officer Steve Bearden said he supported upping the city attorney’s pay.

“Yes, he comes to court once a month, but he’s always getting calls from us [the police department],” Bearden said as he clarified the city attorney’s duties before the council. “If I deal with someone at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and I need to know how to charge something, I ask him. He’s got a lot more hours than the one day in court.”

The city attorney currently receives $600 a month for his services to the city. The council moved to give him a 20% raise ($720 a month), which would make his annual salary $8,640.

The special-called meeting replaces the city’s regular meeting, which was scheduled for Dec. 9.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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