JONESBORO — Mayor Harold Copenhaver said Thursday he doesn’t want to propose any new tax measure without having specific plans for spending the money or a high level of community support.
“We just want the people in the community to understand when the city comes out with something, they’re going to know where it’s going, what the money’s going to be used for, the time that it will be implemented and then the revenue it will provide,” Copenhaver explained.
The first-term mayor was responding to calls from members of the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission to impose a prepared food to support the commission’s work.
Unlike a regular sales tax, the prepared food tax also known as a “hamburger tax,” doesn’t require voter approval. However, the last time the Jonesboro City Council enacted such a tax, voters in 1997 forced the issue onto a special election ballot and repealed the tax.
“We’re in discussion now on how we can move this community forward, but it’s got to be in a unified way,” Copenhaver said of work to improve quality of life in the city. “If that’s an avenue that we need to address, then we can approach it. And of course, that’s a decision that will have to be made by city council members. But it’s about bringing everybody to the table, and we’re starting to hear those concerns.”
Also, before he proposes new tax money, Copenhaver said he wants to satisfy himself and the rest of the community that city government is operating as efficiently as it can.
“And so we are looking in our departments where we can cut costs, because to be honest with you, there are deficiencies in the city with revenue,” Copenhaver said. “And so how do we increase our revenue for the services that we continue to provide?”
Copenhaver, serving his first year in office, said it was too early for him to identify specific projects or potential tax sources for those projects.
“At this point, we’re just evaluating everything, and that’s the key,” he said. “We’ve got to have our numbers, where we’re lagging behind in the community. We don’t know the anticipated numbers of what a hamburger tax would provide at this point, or what it can be used for. So we have many questions to be answered. Ideas are great, but you have to facilitate those ideas and have everything in order.”
Copenhaver said he wants to take a comprehensive look at the city’s needs before bringing any one idea to the table.