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DEAD END: Washington County citizens vote against transit tax


May 23, 2012 by Matthew Jones

Washington County doesn’t want to expand funding for the Ozark Regional Transit. The vote of Washington County went to the polls yesterday, May 22, and had their voices heard loud and clear. Those against the vote won out, by 64 percent, widely beating the 36 percent in favor of raising the sales tax to fund ORT route expansion.

“The purpose of the tax was not very clear” explained Goshen resident, Traci, who  voted NO on the new transit tax. She said that she “wanted to know what the reasons where behind the tax.” She went on to explain that her vote was not against expanding public transit in Was. Co. but more a vote against the unknown and in this time of economic uncertainty, where people have to strap down and make tough decisions, “I better be safe than sorry.

Washington County residents had the opportunity to vote on an increase of the sales tax, by .25 percent, to fund more routes of Ozark Regional Transit through out Washington County. The tax increase comes from the Washington County Quorum Court. This incentive to raise funds for public transit began with a cooperation with Benton County, but Benton County later pulled out and Washington County decided to move forward with the project.

The tax increase was met with hostility from people who said that Washington County already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the state and we cannot afford to have another raise, and to fund something that is not used by many people in the county.

Traci brought said that people in this county are facing economic uncertainty and that to raise taxes would not be in the best interests of the people, even though they might support it.

Kim, from Fayetteville, echoed this opinion. Kim described herself as a “yellow-dog democrat” and that she is “all in favor of improving public transit for the poor of Was. Co.” However, she said she realized that times are tight and that Washington County already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the state and that times are difficult. Kim said that we three teenagers she is more strapped for cash than ever and that she has to save and we wise in her spending, and that she just cannot afford more money to buy the same items. Kim said that she is “for mass transit” and that she was “ashamed to admiting in voting no for expansion of public transit.”

And what about those 36 percent that voted for the tax increase?

Victoria of Fayetteville said she voted yes and that “public transit should be accessible to all. [Public transit is] an important part of any growing community.” She also believes that public transit is “environmentally sound.”

Spearheading the anti-tax push was the Washington County Tea Party. When asked why people should vote against the transit tax, a spokeswoman for the tea party said that “ORT lied to the public and to the quorum court about their funding being cut as the first excuse to try to persuade the quorum court to get it on the ballot. No one was taking away their buses, in fact federal funding increased, but there are people who still believe to this day that the buses will stop running.”

“Why should tax payers pay for mass transit?  It should be paid for by riders, those entities who benefit (Walmart, pharmacies, health & wellness clinics, NWA Mall, etc. – supply & demand) or donations.”

The Ozark Regional Transit had worked for two and a half years to be able to expand the routes they already have. This started as a dual effort between Washington and Benton County.

ORT could try again to get some collaboration together to expand their current routes. We will have to wait and see on that, but for now the voters have spoken and the people of Was. Co. will not have to pay an another .25 percent on their sales items.




  1. Paul W. Davis says:

    When the buses run empty or with only one or two individuals on them, it is a horrendous waste of everyone’s money. If “public” transit cannot make itself profitable and attractive, then it does not need to be.

  2. Erin says:

    I think an important lesson can be learned from this. Next time a new tax is proposed, those in favor should work on educating voters on the purpose of the tax so that confusion doesn’t exist. The voters should have a clear undestanding of what the extra .25% is going to be used for.

    In case anyone is interested in reseraching more about the Ozark Regional Transit, there was a thorough study published by the University of Arkansas on Washington County’s use of the system and how the tax increase was received by the public in 2010 and early 2011.

  3. Joe Neal says:

    Northwest Arkansas City, stretching from Bella Vista in the north, to Greenland in the south, involving a quarter of a million people, has become unworkable in a transportation sense. With no reasonable effort to improve funding and make buses more attractive to more people, we will be forced to build even more roads and breath more dirty air and we won’t get to vote on those taxes. Those at lower income levels already find it difficult to perform basic errands, like shopping. Everyone loses here. That’s the lesson I draw from the thumping defeat of a modest mass transit expansion tax. Once again, hate-all-government & damn-the-consequences folks have their way, at the expense of everyone else. We will come to rue this day.

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