HMR tax could fund park maintenance with voter approval

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, aldermen considered calling a special election to enable revenue from the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant (HMR) tax to be applied to park maintenance.

Fayetteville residents approved the HMR tax in 1995, but the measure only allowed the tax to be used for park promotion and park development. Money for maintaining the parks comes out of the general fund.

This vote would not reauthorize the HMR tax, Alderman Bobby Ferrell explained at the agenda session last week. It only adjusts the parameters for how the money can be used, he said.

In the ordinance, the election was originally suggested for March 9, but holding the election on that date would have cost between $15,000 and $17,000, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said at the council meeting.

Instead, having the election on May 18 will cost the city about $3,000 or $5,000, because the issue will share a ballot with the primary election, thus the city can share the cost of poll workers and other expenses.

Valerie Biendara, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, expressed concerns about the change. Allowing money from the HMR tax to be used for maintenance would make it tempting to cut the park’s budget with the city, she said.

The council left the ordinance on the first reading after City Attorney Kit Williams asked for more time to get the language in the ordinance precise.

In other business, Aldermen Brenda Thiel and Shirley Lucas were nominated for vice-mayor of Fayetteville with Thiel winning by a 5-3 vote.

Also, a vote on the Oakbrooke rezoning was delayed. Several residents of the Bridgeport area spoke against the increase of density near their neighborhood. After discussing the issue for nearly two hours, the council decided to leave it on the second reading.