Sep 26, 2014
Conway Wants More Taxes
If you live in Conway, that sucking sound you hear isn’t Toad Suck — it’s more tax money the Mayor and Council want to take from your wallet. Right on the heels of a city-wide referendum to spend almost $30 million for a new shopping center and associated street work, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell and...
Right on the heels of a city-wide referendum to spend almost $30 million for a new shopping center and associated street work, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell and the City Council are ready to double down on every source of tax revenue they can muster — without further voter approval.
Tuesday’s entire Conway City Council committee meeting was devoted to the reasons Conway needs tax increases. Conway’s Chief Financial Officer, Tyler Winningham, presented city finances and repeatedly elaborated a need for additional revenue that could be raised with approval from the voters (such as business licenses, increases in various fees, etc).
Winningham’s presentation showed that Conway sales tax collections are flat and, therefore, Conway needs additional revenue. There was much elaboration of how well department heads are meeting the budget — but there was no discussion on ways to gain efficiencies with the current levels of spending, or ways to reduce spending.
Townsell and Winningham were also quick to point out that Conway needs more money to increase police and fire salaries to the levels city officials had previously promised. They did not mention the fact that, since that promise, other city employees have been awarded huge salary increases — some over 25% and not to mention the Mayor’s increase of almost 30% — but police and fire departments have not.
Townsell claimed a reported existing increase in cash reserves was simply an accounting gimmick and not a real increase in reserves, which was contested (and rightly so) by Ward 1 Alderman David Grimes. Grimes pointed out the amount was actually cash available that would have otherwise been spent. The balance in the reserve account is $1 million, which will rise to $1.5 million by year-end.
In the past, Conway has consistently raided the Sanitation Department’s budget for operating funds; however Winningham assured the Council that the Sanitation Department, with roughly $1.5 million dollars of revenue in excess of expenses, will assuredly spend all this before the year’s end.
Townsell confirmed that he would submit a list of tax increases the City Council can implement without a vote of the people but interestingly, Townsell didn’t refer to a “list of tax increases,” just a “sheet that had been provided before with amounts available in each category.” Because the city intern responsible for providing the “sheet” was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, action on the “sheet” was delayed.
Conway’s Mayor and City Council have a long history of using police and fire salaries as justification for tax increases — but they never follow through. Police and fire salaries have been used as political trump cards at least for the last 14 years.
Conway citizens deserve more accountability than this. Find out what Conway’s Mayor and Council have in mind for more taxes — the next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, October 7; committee meeting begins at 5:30 pm.