Charleston is going to lose about $75,000 in sales tax money due to a county error. Here's why

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Mayor Tabitha Hester said the city of Charleston is losing about $75,000 in sales tax money due to a public notice error.

The city of Charleston will lose approximately $75,000 because of a county error. 

Charleston Mayor Tabitha Hester said that although the people of Franklin County reapproved a 1-percent sales tax, the city would not get the money until July, meaning the city is losing about $25,000 a month. 

“To the city of Charleston, that’s a lot of money," Hester said. 

Prior to the Feb. 9 special election that approved the sales tax, the county had to place ads of public notice in the area newspaper. But the county used incorrect language to describe the measure, so the Arkansas Department of Finance stated that county officials had to place ads of public notice in the paper for a second time — this time with the correct language, Hester said. 

The sales tax is collected by the county and distributed to the cities. The error led to the cities losing the tax until July. 

The tax was sunsetting in March, so the cities began losing funds this month. 

The city of Charleston can use the money for anything and had planned to buy a new police car with the tax, Hester said. The purchase will have to be postponed until next year. 

The city is also saving on payroll because it has yet to replace several employees. Hester said she will not replace the positions until the city receives the tax money.

Water and sewer upgrades on track

With funds that were already earmarked for water and sewer improvements, Charleston is able to continue to make improvements to the water system in town. 

The city is building a new wastewater plant. The old plant has gotten to the point where making repairs was as costly as building a new plant. It is a $2.1 million project that will span two years.

Before the end of the year, the city will also replace all of its water meters that gauge how much water each customer uses. The new meters are able to more accurately measure how much water customers use.

Hester said she thinks this will lead to the city wasting less water because the city will charge people for more water and they will in turn be more careful about wasting water. 

“It’s water conservation," Hester said.

The project costs about $500,000. The city has replaced about half of the meters thus far and should replace the rest by the end of the year. The city has about 2,000 water customers.

The city is also evaluating its water collection system to identify weaknesses. It should take about a year to identify all the weaknesses and then the city will be able to gradually fix the problem areas. Hester estimated that it will take about $10 million to make all the repairs.

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