The city of Rogers held a special election last week where just 4.5% of registered voters showed up to pass $300 million in bonds for streets, parks, fire, and police services. The future tax increase package was split into five parts with the second part extending a 1% sales tax increase to help finance the plan.
Five-Part Rogers Future Tax Increase Plan
- $180 million in bonds for street improvements
- $59.5 for bond debt refinancing
- $41 million for parks and recreation
- $11.5 million for police
- $9.5 million for fire
Special elections have increased dramatically over the past 12 months after attempts to reform them failed by a single vote in the 2017 legislative session. A bill by Representative Justin Gonzales and Senator Dave Wallace would have required that special elections to raise taxes occur at regularly scheduled elections in May primaries, Fall general elections, or in May/November in off-year elections.
There were even provisions for emergencies and to accommodate for new voting machines. Currently, cities and counties hold special elections at all times of the year in which voter turnout is low and those who benefit from growing government turn out and pass tax increases.
The Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE) has done extensive research on special elections in Arkansas. Their study found the following:
- Special Elections cost taxpayers, on average, over $200,000 per year.
- Since 1981 taxpayers have spent over $7.4 million on special elections
- Voter turnout for these special elections averaged 19% for local sales tax elections, with a 77% pass rate of these tax increases on the people.
- When held at the general election, the pass rate was just 45%.