By Rob Patrick
If you are going to vote, or have already, on the proposed county-wide one-cent sales tax for bonds to build a $55 million complex at the Saline County fairgrounds in Benton, we’d appreciate it if you’d leave a comment below on how you plan to vote (or voted) and why?[more]
My impression is the voters on this issue are separating out into two factions of two groups.
The primary dividing line is the additional tax. I suspect that most people in Benton may have more of a tendency to vote for the project. And I get the sense that folks from Bryant who have roots in Saline County (going back more than one generation) might be more willing to go along.
Briefly, proponents point to new employment opportunities, more tourism and tax benefits brought on by the events at the complex.
We’ve had a few stories that featured those promoting the project and you can find those with a search for “Fairplex,” on the left side of this page.
We’ve had less from the opponents but, in short, there is some skepticism out in the county. Bauxite mayor Gary Duncan has said he thinks the next penny of sales tax should go toward solving the projected water shortage in the county. And he’s not alone in that. It may be coming whether the Fairplex passes or not.
Others have mentioned that businesses in the outer reaches of the county may not see much benefit.
As for Bryant — our primary concern at BryantDaily.com — it has been pointed out that there is already a higher sales tax here than anywhere else in the county and among the highest in the state. We’re in the process of paying off other things, like the new Bishop Park.
(I’ve even heard someone say that the Fairplex is the latest version of Benton one-upmanship because of the new park and its community center. I don’t know about that. But just for that to come to mind . . . what a rivalry, huh?)
So, there are many (all over the county) who won’t vote for the project because of the added tax burden. And, of course, there are many who won’t vote for a new tax, regardless of what it’s for. There’s also a number of people who just don’t buy the financial projections that proponents came up with regarding the project.
Those folks, I think, are coupled with a group we’ll call New Bryant, families that have moved here more recently. Most of them — maybe 85 percent of the workforce — have jobs in Little Rock. They like to shop in Little Rock, like to dine in Little Rock. They, for example, would prefer to continue having the Bryant High School graduation, prom, etc., in Pulaski County. It’s more convenient for them coming from work.
In fact, in many cases, those folks relate to Little Rock and Pulaski County more than they do with Benton and Saline County. If it weren’t for the stark contrast in school systems and crime rates, they might still live in the capital city. Their interest in a Fairplex would probably be minimal. In fact, there are some that might not care enough about it to bother voting on it, which may help the supporters.
BryantDaily.com, of course, joins in the call for everyone to vote. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how many of each group gets out and does so.
Again, we’d appreciate your comments.