Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola was joined last week by public safety officials and community activists at a rally promoting the city’s proposed sales tax increase.

Voters will go to the polls Sept. 13 to decide on a plan to raise the sales tax rate to 1.5% from the current 0.5%. The rate has not been raised since the tax was first levied in 1994.

The proposal consists of two questions — a temporary 0.375% increase to finance $195 million of capital improvement efforts over 10 years, and a permanent 0.625% increase that would generate almost $32 million a year for municipal operations.

Police chief Stuart Thomas said the additional revenue would allow the police department to fill 40 vacant spots and keep 27 officers now being paid through federal grants that will expire soon.

Fire chief Greg Summers said the tax would build two new fire stations and fund 36 new firefighter positions. Summers said the city has not built a new fire station since 1992.

Stodola said even with the higher rate, Little Rock’s sales tax would be lower than 20 cities in Arkansas. Responding to criticism over $38 million of the revenues earmarked for economic development, he said 93% of the tax revenues would help meet basic needs.

Little Rock’s $115 million of outstanding debt includes $87.5 million of general obligation bonds and $31.7 million of revenue bonds. The debt is rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s.

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