A penny -- how much is a penny worth to you?
Do you stop and pick up a penny on the ground?
Remember the old children's rhyme: "Find a penny pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck"?
When I was young (my children say it was the Stone Age), a penny bought a huge piece of bubble gum. Now, a penny doesn't buy much alone, but many pennies make a quarter, which combine to make a dollar, which combine to make the money needed to purchase wants and needs and pay the bills.
A penny per dollar is the request from city officials on a city sales tax. The question will be put before voters Sept. 14 in a special election. A one-cent city sales tax was adopted in 1984 but there has been no increase for the city since then. Each person reading this knows that costs have risen dramatically in the past 37 years.
In 1940, there were 72 people in Pea Ridge, according to census records. By 1960, that number had increased to 380. By 1980, that number had quadrupled to 1,488. By 2000, the census record shows 2,346 people living in the city of Pea Ridge. The latest census figures available show the city's population at 6,211 in 2019.
During that time, the city has changed, grown. More streets have been paved. The number of people working for the city has increased in every department to keep up with the demands. Demands on the city's infrastructure have increased. And, although the city's sales tax revenues have increased as more businesses are opened and more people shop, those revenues have not kept up with the needs created by additional people living in and passing through this city.
What were once a volunteer fire department and volunteer ambulance department are now a combined department with an advanced life support ambulance service and two paid firefighters in the station 40 hours a week to shorten response time.
The surrounding cities, cities in which you and I often shop, each have at least a 2-cent sales tax so we pay that every time we buy clothes, decor, supplies from Rogers or Bentonville. Bella Vista, Siloam Springs, Lowell, Centerton, Cave Springs, Elm Springs and Hiwasse each have at least a 9% city sales tax. That money goes to the city coffers in those cities, helping pay for their infrastructure, their emergency services, their city officials' salaries.
A sales tax is paid by anyone who shops in the city limits. That includes residents of other towns, cities, states -- all those people who pass through Pea Ridge traveling to and from work and buy gasoline, food, drink -- the people who come here for sporting and school events and go out to eat.
City officials have sponsored several town hall meetings to answer questions for anyone wanting information about the city's budget, the sales tax, the requested bond issue for the streets. So far, only one person has attended the open meetings. People complain on social media, but few actually contact the source to seek accurate information.
Contact City Hall and ask for information. City officials are required by law to give it and you will be better informed than you will listening to the gossips at the coffee shop or on social media.
And, vote! It's your community. It's your right, privilege and responsibility.
Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. A native of Louisiana, she moved to northwest Arkansas in 1980 to work for the Benton County Daily Record. She has nine children, six sons-in-law, nine grandsons and four granddaughters. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected]