City of Booneville officials learned last week the planned June 9 sales tax election cannot be held, meaning the tax likely will not be collected for at least one quarter.
Election law dictates there must be at least 60 days from the time the council passes an ordinance to create a special election and the election date.
The council set the June 9 date during its April 27 meeting.
Selecting the June 9 date was done in an attempt to have the tax, if passed for the sixth time, take effect on Oct. 1 after the current tax expires on Sept. 30.
Setting the election for June 9 was also done because an April 14 election date was cancelled in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
City attorney Johnny Williams explained, prior to last week’s city council meeting, election law didn’t allow for any grace period for a pandemic.
“I probably could have looked closer when we did it but there wasn’t anybody at the courthouse,” Williams said.
Wilkins also noted the courthouse closure.
“It’s not really our fault because they closed the courthouse,” Wilkins said.
Closing the courthouse, or limiting access to appointment only would have meant conducting early voting through appointment.
The lone polling place for the election was also planned for the Jeral Hampton Meeting Place, which is owned by First Western Bank and possibly would not have been available had plans for the election continued with social distancing provisions.
“I want you to go to Little Rock and kick some doors in,” Wilkins said, apparently joking, to Williams when the attorney told the mayor there is likely no chance of an appeal.
Proceeding with an election could lead to it being overturned,
“The 60 days between the start and having n election is the law. If anyone want to challenge it, they could,” said Williams.
Consequently the council passed another ordinance resetting the election for Aug. 11, appeasing both the 60 day waiting period requirement and a requirement that a special election be held on the second Tuesday of a month.
Barring an unlikely relaxing by state officials in holding the election in June, the delay will cause city vendors to not collect the tax for the quarter of Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.
The fourth quarter of the year is traditionally the top quarter for collections due to Christmas shopping.
Because taxes collected in a month are forwarded to the Department of Finance and Administration the following month and to a collecting entity a month later, the city would collect those revenues in December, January, and February.
For December 2018 and January and February 2019 the collection totalled $180,716.27.
December 2019 and January and February 2020 totals were $192,570.74, which included a record $71,286.06 collected in December and remitted to the city in February.
Using the most recent matching quarter the 10 entities impact would have been:
City Improvement, 30 percent, $57,771.22
Booneville Police Department, 22 percent, $42,365.56
Booneville Fire Department, 10 percent, $19,257.07
Area Agency/Senior Center, 10 percent, $19,257.07
Booneville Airport 7 percent, $13,479.95
Booneville Street Department, 5 percent, $9,628.54
Booneville Parks Commission, 5 percent, $9,628.54
Booneville Animal Control, 5 percent, $9,628.54
BDC/Chamber, 4 percent,$7,702.83
Oak Hill Cemetery 2 percent, $3,851.41
In other matters last week the council again took no action on possibly awarding a contract for mowing and upkeep of Oak Hill Cemetery.
In April there were two bids for the job, one which provided a figure without sales tax, and another which made no mention of sales tax.
Wilkins said because the mowing season is well under way and because of the cost of mowers, the city may look into awarding a three-year contract for the work starting in 2021 rather than revisiting the matter now.