BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — The voters of Benton County have spoken and they do not want to see a sales tax increase that would have gone toward expanding the county jail.
There were two tax increases on the ballot.
The first was a 0.125% sales tax that would have allowed the county to sell about $160 million in bonds that would have been used for the construction of the new jail. Results indicate 36.60% of voters were for the raise, while 63.40% were against. All votes for this race are in.
The second was a 0.25% sales tax for the maintenance, operations, hiring and expenses needed for this bigger facility. 37.55% were for this increase while 62.45% were against. All votes for this race are in.
Benton County Judge Barry Moerhing said they have to respect the voice of the voters and now have to find a new solution.
“We’ll have to take action because the problem won’t go away just because voters have told us they don’t like this proposal,” he said. “We’ll have to go back and reassess. We’ll have to do something different.”
He said the jail was built several decades ago when the population of Benton County was about 180,000 people. The population now is about 300,000.
“This is about preserving our public safety in the face of substantial growth. Growth that some people like, some people don’t like, but it’s our reality,” he said.
KNWA/FOX24 will continue to follow the conversation about what the future of public safety will look like in Benton County.