Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TOP STORY >>New taxes for Gravel Ridge

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Probably the first thing Gravel Ridge residents will notice when they become part of Jacksonville or Sherwood is higher taxes at area restaurants and other places of business.

Currently Gravel Ridge residents, as part of the county, pay a 7 percent tax on all items purchased in the community. That breaks down to 6 percent for the state (the county gets a portion of that money back) and 1 percent for the county.

If Gravel Ridge ends up as part of Jacksonville through an election set for Feb. 5, then residents of that area will pay 9 percent on most business transactions and 11 percent on prepared foods such as their lunch order from a local restaurant.

Jacksonville’s tax includes 6 percent for the state, 1 percent for the county, 2 percent for the city and a 2 percent prepared food levy.

If Gravel Ridge is annexed into Sherwood—that city is bringing up the issue at its Dec. 17 council meeting—then residents would pay 8 percent on most items and 10 percent on prepared foods.

Sherwood’s tax includes the state’s 6 percent and the county’s 1 percent, plus 1 percent for the city and a 2 percent prepared food levy.

But Jacksonville City Administrator Jay Whisker counters that as part of Jacksonville, Gravel Ridge would get twice-a-week trash pickup, plus once-a-week yard waste pickup and recycling pickup once a week.

“That’s a sanitation visit four times a week,” he said.

Plus, once a month the city comes around and picks up larger landfill items such as old furniture.

He added that the area would get police service from the city and that Jacksonville would supplement the area’s fire department and sewer system.

Whisker said Gravel Ridge gets its water service through Central Arkansas Water (CAW) and that would continue.

In Mayor Tommy Swaim’s 20-plus years of running the city, Jacksonville has not annexed county land through election.
“It has been done though,” the mayor said, “but it was before my time. An election was used to annex a portion of south Jacksonville near Valentine Road.”

He said the city could offer Gravel Ridge a number of excellent services like police, sanitation, and additional fire support.
“I’ve gotten a number of calls from residents out there thinking they are already in our city limits,” he said.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said the city has talked about bringing in parts of Gravel Ridge for years.

“We’ve had residents call us about annexation and some already think they are in Sherwood because of their zip code,” she said.

The zip code for a portion of Gravel Ridge is 72120, the same as Sherwood, while the rest of Gravel Ridge is 72076, the same as Jacksonville.

The mayor said Sherwood has not tried to bring in Gravel Ridge before by an election process “because we didn’t want it to be perceived as a hostile takeover.”

“We would have preferred to wait and have them voluntarily petition us for annexing. But I do feel we are going to be offering the area an option to Jacksonville,” she said.

An advantage, she pointed out, is the millage rate.

“We have the lowest of the cities in Pulaski County and are the same as the county. That means on a $100,000 home, Sherwood and the county would be about $60 a year cheaper than Jacksonville,” Hillman said.

She also said Sherwood’s fire rating is lower than Jacksonville’s and that could mean savings for Gravel Ridge.

Most of Jacksonville’s growth to the west toward Gravel Ridge has been voluntary annexed as subdivisions were completed, according to Whisker.

Northlake, Stone Ridge, Base Meadows and Lost Creek subdivisions – all developments on the western side – have come into the city when the subdivisions were built.

“It’s part of the agreement the developers make with the planning commission. In exchange for city services, the subdivisions become part of the city,” Whisker said.

Currently, Jacksonville extends out Jacksonville Cut-Off to about the Bayou Meto bridge, about 1.5 miles from the intersection of Highway 107 and Jacksonville Cut-Off.

Sherwood’s city limits stop on Highway 107, about a half mile south of that intersection.