Appealing to the intelligence of voters is likely the smartest way to getting the proposed re-funding of Cabot’s sales and use tax approved at the polls on April 9, Mayor Bill Cypert said Tuesday. Cypert was speaking to representatives of the commissions and groups promoting the approval of nearly $40 million in improvement bonds for five projects.
Regardless of the worthiness of the projects, each of which must be approved before proceeding, unless the tax re-funding is approved nothing else matters, Cypert said. "I want to point out very clearly that [re-funding] is not an additional tax, it is the same one that has been in place since 1999," he said.
Cypert was speaking to a meeting that included members of the Water and Wastewater Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Lonoke and Prairie County Library Board, and representatives of the Highlands area.
This will take a coordinated campaign to educate and inform the voters, Cypert said.
At stake are five projects dubbed "The five cornerstones for the bridge to the future for Cabot, Arkansas."
Cabot’s voters are intelligent, and will support the issues they understand. That is the way it was done in 1999 and 2005 with two-to-one support, Cypert said.
The projects are the north terminal interchange to connect U.S. Highway 67/167 with the railroad overpass - $9.5 million; the library relocation, expansion and renovation - $2.6 million; wastewater system improvements - $8.2 million; parks and recreation infrastructure improvements - $13.5 million; and the community center expansion and renovation - $5.5 million.
"Don’t forget about the Highland drainage work. We do not want to lose sight of that," Cypert said. The drainage improvements would cost about $500,000.
"It is really critical we all stay focused and together we can make this happen. If we start splintering, if we do something and someone does something else, I think that endangers the success of the campaign, so we just need to stay together," Cypert said. "Gary [Walker, Water Commission chairman] uses ‘United we stand … divided we fall,’" Cypert remarked.
The current sales and use tax was first approved in 1999 and funded a water source, Cypert said. "Without that, Cabot would have died in that decade," he said.
The tax was re-funded in 2005 for a $22.6 million bond to build a new water treatment plant, the new railroad overpass, a new animal shelter and to complete the community center, Cypert said. The payoff was projected for 16 years, but will be done in 11 years, in 2016, he said.
"It is likely that a growing community like Cabot will always have a continuing one-cent infrastructure tax," Cypert said.
Such a tax is probably the fairest way to finance infrastructure improvements, with everyone doing business in Cabot paying rather than citizens or ratepayers, alone, Cypert said.
Improvements mean growth, growth means more revenue, and more revenue means more funding, Cypert said.
Parks and Recreation Commission member Ken Kincade said most people would likely better understand the re-funding if compared to refinancing a home for a better interest rate.
Cypert pointed out that with the special election, improvements to the county election system will mean that any voter would be able to vote at polling site in the city. "That will be quite helpful," he said.
A schedule of five town hall meetings to discuss the re-funding in an open forum will be published.