The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday will consider a proposal to allocate about half of the annual projected revenue from the 2017 sales tax increase approved by voters to six separate departments. The funds would be over and above money appropriated for those departments in the current 2019 municipal budget. The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.
Sponsored by Council Member Ivan Whitfield, the resolution says that a portion of the sales tax money should be used to “meet the critical needs of various city departments and entities for the betterment of the city.”
Under Whitfield’s proposal, the money would be allocated as follows:
* Police Department, $300,000
* Fire Department, $200,000
* Drainage, $1 million* Youth/community resources $300,000* Convention Center, $300,000* Total: $2,100,000The five-eights cent sales tax generates just over $4 million annually.Included with the resolution are needs, wants and wishes lists from both the police and fire departments as well as Whitfield’s rational for introducing the resolution.A former Chief of Police, Whitfield is serving his first term on the council, having been sworn in on Jan. 1. He has announced he will be a candidate for Mayor in the 2020 primary.Regarding the police department, he said that Chief (Kelvin) Sergeant has stated that he is over 20 officers short. In order to fight the shortage, a large portion of the appropriation will be used to pay officers for working overtime. It would also allow the chief to purchase equipment to be proactive in fighting crime to help the department retain officers until a step-in-grade pay raise is adopted.About the Fire Department, Whitfield said Chief (Shauwn) Howell has said he uses most of his overtime funds for officers who are in training and the appropriation will allow him to better utilize his personnel. The appropriation will also allow Howell to purchase equipment that may save the life of a firefighter or a civilian.On the subject of youth/community, Whitfield said “The City of Pine Bluff has failed to secure a solid foundation for our youth to have activities.” He said volunteer coaches “have stepped up to help our youth stay off the streets” and the funds would provide resources t help youth, purchase equipment and the money could be directed to the advertising and promotions commission for mini-grants.Regarding the Convention Center, Whitfield said in order to have a strong tax base, Pine Bluff must have a strong convention center and said the appropriation will “make the convention center more attractive.”He also said the money may have to be sent to the A&P Commission for distribution.On the subject of drainage, Whitfield said the appropriation will help “develop a strong beginning to a long-term problem of our neighborhoods flooding every time it rains.” He went on to say the appropriation may be used to have culverts placed in ditches that can be covered with sidewalks.Also on Monday, the third reading of a proposed ordinance dealing with the Pine Bluff Historical District Commission and enforcement of city rules regarding the issuance of permits to do work in the district is on the agenda.
Sponsored by Council Member Bruce Lockett, the proposed ordinance requires that before the owner of property in the historic district can obtain a permit to restore, rehab or demolish a building, they must receive a certificate of appropriateness from the historic district. Without that certificate, they are prohibited from doing anything to the property.