Early voting underway in Fayetteville sales tax renewal

Washington County Courthouse / File photo

Early voting is underway for the Aug. 10 sales tax election in Fayetteville.

Voters will decide whether to renew the city’s 1-cent sales tax which was first enacted in 1993 and has twice been renewed. If passed, this renewal would add another 10 years to the collection timeline.

Early voting is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 9 at the County Clerk’s Office in the Washington County Courthouse. The courthouse will be closed over the weekend.

NWA City Sales Tax Rates

1%Avoca, Decatur, Elm Springs, Little Flock, Pea Ridge, Springtown, Sulphur Springs
2%Bella Vista, Bentonville, Centerton, Farmington, Fayetteville, Gentry, Goshen, Gravette, Highfill, Johnson, Lowell, Rogers, Siloam Springs, Springdale
2.25%Cave Springs
2.75%Elkins, Prairie Grove, Tontitown
3%Greenland, Lincoln, West Fork

Source: Arkansas Dept. of Finance & Admin (June 2021)

City staff said they hope residents understand that the decision is not whether to increase taxes, but rather to continue with the 1-cent tax that’s been collected for nearly three decades.

“I want it to be crystal clear that this is not a new tax, said Paul Becker, chief financial officer. “This is the continuation of the current one-penny tax used for operations and capital.”

The tax generates about $22.5 million each year, and is split 60-40 between general fund operations ($13.5 million) and sales tax capital improvements ($9 million). That equates to about 27% of overall general operations revenue and 100% of the capital improvements program.

The tax is currently set to last through 2023, but staff said getting a decision from voters well before the expiration date is key when considering the possibility that voters may not approve a renewal.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said it will be a major challenge to figure out how the city would operate if the tax is not renewed.

“I don’t think I can express enough how critical it is that everybody rows in the same direction here,” Jordan said.

The tax was last renewed by a nearly 75% margin. It was first adopted in 1993 with 86% approval from voters, and then renewed in 2002 by a 76% margin.

Becker said without a renewal, a revenue loss of that magnitude could not be replaced by other sources, which means city jobs would be the first to go.

Nearly 82% of the general operations budget is for employee salaries, Becker said, so if cuts had to be made to each category in the budget in direct proportion to the revenue loss, the city would have to eliminate about $11 million in salaries or as many as 150 jobs. With public safety employees making up about 60% of all full-time positions, Becker said it’s possible that 81 jobs would be cut in that sector alone.

The $9 million for capital improvement projects funds programs like street overlays, trails sidewalks and drainage, library materials, information technology, equipment upgrades and replacements, and fire apparatus. Without the 1-cent tax, Becker said money for those programs would be gone.

Sales tax in Northwest Arkansas

Like 11 other cities in the region, Fayetteville collects a 2% sales and use tax. Voters continued the other penny tax in an April 2019 special election.

Other cities that also collect 2% include Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Siloam Springs, Centerton, Farmington, Highfill, Gravette, Johnson, Lincoln and Lowell.

Washington County currently takes 1.25% (it was recently lowered after a temporary 0.25% tax increase expired), while Benton County’s sales tax rate is 1%. The state collects 6.5% for its own sales tax.

Some cities in Arkansas collect an additional 2% tax at hotels, motels and restaurants for tourism purposes, including Bentonville, Conway, El Dorado, Eureka Springs, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Harrison, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Russellville, Springdale, Texarkana and Van Buren. Rogers collects a 3% tax at hotels and motels.

For more information about the election, visit washingtoncountyar.gov.

» See a sample ballot

Aug. 10 Election Day Voting Centers

Voting centers will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 for Election Day. All eligible voters can use any of the following centers:

  • Baldwin Corner Stone Church of Christ, 4377 Huntsville Road
  • Central United Methodist Church, 6 W. Dickson St.
  • Covenant Church, 4511 W. Wedington Drive
  • Genesis Church, 205 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
  • Mount Comfort Church of Christ, 3249 W. Mount Comfort Road
  • Sang Avenue Baptist Church, 1425 N. Sang Ave.
  • Sequoyah Methodist Church, 1910 Old Wire Road
  • Trinity Fellowship, 1100 Rolling Hills Drive