PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The people of Pine Bluff have spoken about where they want their tax dollars to go.
In a special election on Tuesday, voters decided to not go forward and rejected two sales tax proposals.
One is a three-eight cents sales tax for public safety initiatives, the other is a five-eighths cent sales tax for Go-Forward Pine Bluff, a non-profit aimed at making the city more inviting.
Go-Forward currently receives five-eighths cent sales tax from this election years ago.
Go-Forward said they are going to keep working on the projects they have in motion until their cycle of receiving the money ends in late 2024.
Ryan Watley, CEO of Go-Forward said they’ve spent about 18 of the 25 million in tax dollars on projects like the innovation hub, sixth and main street developments, and the aquatic center.
“The things that we promised in the first cycle, we have either started 92 percent of those or completed that,” Watley said. “Some of the projects like the aquatic center were planned under about two administrations ago and here we are being here 5 years and have been able to accomplish many things.”
But Ivan Whitfield, with the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP, said, “All Go-Forward did was $4 million to pay it off, and they paid it off with tax dollars, which the council could have done,” pertaining to the aquatic center.
Whitfield also said the non-profit wasn’t needed at all in the first place because “The responsibility of handling tax dollars should be and has always been the hands of the mayor and the city council.”
Whitfield said he also voted no because the sales taxes would hurt low-income families.
“This is about investing. So even the poorest of the poor want a better quality of life,” Watley said “It’s a matter of if they are willing to invest in a better quality of life.”
With the money left, Watley said Go-Forward is still on pace to finish projects such as a go-kart track and convention center hotel by September 2024.