Voters in Jefferson County are going to the polls today to decide on separate city and county tax initiatives.

Pine Bluff is seeking an increase in its 0.625% sales tax to support $18.8 million of infrastructure capital-improvement bonds. The city currently levies a 1% sales tax in addition to Arkansas’ 6% tax.

The city sales-tax hike is expected to generate $4.5 million a year. It would also fund salary increases for public safety employees.

Pine Bluff voters have not approved an increase in the sales tax for more than 28 years.

Jefferson County, which includes Pine Bluff, is asking voters to approve a 0.375% increase in its 1.25% sales tax. The tax would expire in seven years.

Officials in the south-central Arkansas county said the additional sales tax would generate $3.4 million a year. The revenue would finance public infrastructure needed for economic developments and provide incentives for new industries in the county.

Jefferson County voters in December 2008 rejected a proposed 0.5 % increase in the countywide sales tax to finance economic development efforts. Proponents said the tax hike would generate $45 million over 10 years to attract new businesses and fund technical education and training

The final tally was 4,525 opposed and 3,348 in favor.

The Pine Bluff City Council opposed the county’s 2008 increase, but this time city and county officials have publicly supported both proposals.

The city ballot includes seven bond projects to be supported by the additional sales tax.

If voters approve the tax hike but not all the projects, any funds dedicated to failed proposals would go into Pine Bluff’s general fund.

If the tax increase is defeated, no debt would be issued.

Bond projects include $5.2 million of upgrades to fire department facilities and $1.5 million for police department improvements,  $4.8 million for a new community center,  $3.5 million for street projects, $2 million for drainage efforts, $1 million for expansions at the animal shelter, and $800,000 for sewer system extensions and upgrades.

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