A Brief History of the Half-Cent Sales Tax


Blanton Matthews

Early voting for the tax initiative and bypass runs from June 1 to June 4 and on June 7. Election day is Tuesday, June 8.

The Clark County Strategic Planning Initiative was introduced in 2007, including a sales tax increase that was approved by voters on June 12 of that year by a count of 1,755 for and 804 against. The tax, half a penny on every dollar, went to incentivize companies to open plants in the county. It was intended to be a temporary measure to jumpstart the local economy and reverse negative trends in employment figures and population.

In the following year, Alumacraft expanded its Arkadelphia plant both in physical size and by adding 15 new employees, and Hitco Carbon Composites (now SGL) opened a plant in the Clark County Industrial Park, hiring 60 workers.

Most of the money—70% to be precise—collected from the tax goes into municipal capital expenditures, buying and maintaining infrastructure to entice businesses to locate or expand in Clark County.

Advocates for the renewal of the tax say that the unemployment rate in Clark County being lower than surrounding counties and a 20% average increase since 2011 in manufacturing wages compared to a national 8% average increase are directly linked to the introduction of the sales tax.

The tax was supposed to sunset after seven years, but Clark County voters chose to renew it in 2014 for another seven, rescheduling its expiration for 2021, hence the new vote to renew it. However, this vote will renew it for 15 years, rather than another seven, sunsetting in 2036.

This time, the tax renewal shares the ballot with a new bond that would be paid for by the tax. If both measures are approved by Clark County voters, $8 million from the tax will go to the bond to fund a truck bypass that should improve traffic in the downtown area by routing big trucks past downtown.

The bond is also the reason for the tax being up for a 15 year renewal as opposed to another seven, as bonds for 15 years have a lower interest rate.

Opponents argue that the retention of the tax, specifically as for the bypass, is unnecessary. Justin Gonzales, state Representative for the 19th District, says that any slow traffic that could be sped up with trucks rerouted around downtown Arkadelphia is not worth the $8 million price tag that the tax would go toward.

“In the last few years, businesses in the area have worked hard to improve downtown,” Gonzales said. “And bypassing downtown would hurt those businesses.”

Dr. Wesley Kluck, co-chair of Clark County Strategic Plan, says on his Facebook page that the bypass is necessary because one log truck passed through town every five minutes, and that Arkadelphia is the second most expensive areas per highway mile for trucks to pass through in the United States per ARDOT and US Bureau of Labor statistics. Also, despite some misconceptions to the contrary, the bypass will not happen without Clark County voters electing for both the renewal of the tax and the new accompanying bond.

Early voting is open from June 1 to 4, then again on June 7, and election day is June 8.