Leader Blues

Friday, May 30, 2008

TOP STORY > >Austin will hold sales tax vote to aid growth

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Austin residents will vote on Tuesday, June 10 on whether or not to impose a penny sales tax on goods sold in the city and building materials and appliances delivered within the city from other places, according to Mayor Bernie Chamberlain.

Currently, Austin has no city sales tax and subsists on turnback money from the state and its share of the penny countywide tax. Both of those are figured on the basis of the city’s official population of 605, determined at the 2000 census, but the mayor said the city had grown about 300 percent to perhaps 1,800 since then.

“Austin doesn’t have a sales tax and not much for sale,” said Chamberlain, but for her Chamberlain’s Corner Store and a local flooring store. The sales tax initiative is motivated by a new state law that went into effect in January that charges sales taxes on building supplies according to where they are delivered. Austin does not receive any revenue on building supplies coming into the city since it does not have a sales tax.

Chamberlain said the taxes would be about $500 on $50,000 worth of building materials.

“I’m hoping it gets approved,” said Chamberlain. “Everyone I talked to is for it. The builders even think it’s a great idea, helping the city. We have a lot of caring builders.”

On election day, Austin voters can vote at the Austin Station Baptist Church from 7:30 a.m. through 7:30 p.m., according to Larry Clarke, head of the Lonoke County Election Committee.

Lonoke County also has one runoff election besides the special tax election slated for June 10, with early voting for both beginning Tuesday, Clarke said.

Early voting for both will be held 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the following Monday at the Lonoke County Courthouse.

JP District 10 voters will choose between Ronald L. Evans and Bill Ryker, the two top vote getters in the May 20 primary. Ryker got 244 votes, Evans got 212 votes. The third candidate, Wes Clement, received 125 votes.

The District 10 seat was vacated by Kyle Lackey and is being held in the interim by Virgil Turner, appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe.

On election day, District 10 voters will vote at their regular polling place, either the American Legion, the Lonoke Depot, Caney Creek, St. Matthews Church or the Keo Fire Department, he said.

Evans, 36, manages the explosives and metallics manufacturing at Remington Arms.

He has served as state president of the Arkansas Water Fowl Association, a group that teaches youngsters hunting ethics and conservation, he said.

The funds they raise go back into scouting, 4H and baseball programs as well as kids’ camps and duck hunts for them.

He has been an Awana leader for the Baptist Camp.

“I want to continue with what’s going on,” he said. “The jail needs to be taken care of and also an ambulance service.” He said weather warning sirens need to be put up out in the county, perhaps at rural volunteer fire departments.

Ryker, 65, has long been active in Lonoke civic affairs, taking a leading role in construction of the Lonoke Memorial Flag Plaza and in working toward making the second Lonoke I-40 interchange a reality, but it’s his first run for office.

“Experience counts,” said Ryker.

“I’ve had experience helping on committees,” and with running his business, M and M Floral since 1985, he said.

Before that, he was an insurance agent.

“The county judge appoints committees and I want to bring my business sense to the court,” he said.