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Voters in Pine Bluff reject two sales tax proposals



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – Pine Bluff residents have voiced their opinions on where they want their tax dollars to be spent.

Voters voted not to move on and rejected two sales tax proposals in a special election on Tuesday.

One is a three-eighths of a cent sales tax for public safety efforts, and the other is a five-eighths of a cent sales tax for a non-profit organization called Go-Forward Pine Bluff that works to make the community more welcoming.

From this election years ago, Go-Forward today receives five-eighths of a penny in sales tax.

Go-Forward stated that they will continue to work on the ongoing initiatives until the conclusion of their funding cycle in late 2024.

According to Go-Forward CEO Ryan Watley, they have invested around 18 of the 25 million tax dollars in initiatives including the aquatic center, sixth and main street improvements, and the innovation hub.

“The things that we promised in the first cycle, we have either started 92 percent of those or completed that,” Watley said. “Some of the projects like the aquatic center were planned under about two administrations ago and here we are being here 5 years and have been able to accomplish many things.”

But Ivan Whitfield, with the Pine Bluff branch of the NAACP, said, “All Go-Forward did was $4 million to pay it off, and they paid it off with tax dollars, which the council could have done,” pertaining to the aquatic center.

Whitfield also said the non-profit wasn’t needed at all in the first place because “The responsibility of handling tax dollars should be and has always been the hands of the mayor and the city council.”

Whitfield claimed that another reason he abstained was that the sales taxes would harm low-income people.

“This is about investing. So even the poorest of the poor want a better quality of life,” Watley said “It’s a matter of if they are willing to invest in a better quality of life.”

With the remaining funds, Go-Forward is still on track to complete projects like a go-kart track and conference center hotel by September 2024, according to Watley.

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