Little Rock, Ark., hopes to build a new police headquarters with revenues from the 1% increase in the city’s sale tax rate that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012.
City department heads told the newly established Little Rock Citizen Evaluation of the New Tax Committee last week that the money would also go to hiring new code-enforcement officers, replacing an antiquated public safety radio system, and acquiring meerkats and hippos for the Little Rock Zoo.
Reports from the fire department, parks department and others are slated for June.
Voters in September 2011 approved a tax increase of 0.375% for capital improvement projects, which is set to expire at the end of 2022 unless extended by voters, and a permanent 0.625% sales tax for operations.
Mike Blakely, the director of the zoo, said he will fill 17 vacant and new positions, and expand educational outreach with the $1.3 million the zoo will receive this year in additional operational funding.
Capital improvement efforts will include updates to the bear and otter exhibits in 2012, and eventually the zoo wants to add meerkat and hippopotamus exhibits.
The city will spend $1.6 million in 2012 to replace a portion of its 1,200-vehicle fleet, and $1.7 million a year from 2013 through 2021.
Little Rock has not replaced any vehicles since 2008.
Finance director Sara Lenehan said $500,000 of the tax revenue is dedicated to the city’s public-safety pension plans, which were closed to new participants in 1983.
Lenehan said that without the infusion, the plan that covers almost 300 former employees would be insolvent in 10 years.
Police and fire employees hired since 1983 are covered by the state’s Local Police and Fire Retirement System pension program.
Police Chief Stuart Thomas said the 60-year-old police headquarters will eventually be replaced with a new facility.
A substation currently under construction would accommodate some of the headquarter functions when it is completed, he said.
The new police headquarters would also include space for the city’s three municipal courts.