The city of Greenwood is banking on renewal of a 1 percent county sales tax to keep police officers and firefighters on the clock.
"I’m very concerned about it right now with everybody pinching their pennies and really worried about their incomes," Mayor Del Gabbard said. "But it will knock the citizens’ socks off if it doesn’t pass."
Revenues from the Sebastian County sales tax are distributed by population, with proportionate shares going to 11 cities and a lump sum going to the county for unincorporated areas. It’s expected this year the tax will generate $22 million.
On May 14, voters countywide will be asked to extend the tax for another 10 years.
"What I’ve been trying to impress upon everyone’s mind is it’s not that we’re asking for another penny sales tax," Gabbard said. "This is one that is already existing, so it won’t affect anybody any differently than what it is right now."
Based on a population of 8,952, Greenwood receives 7.1 percent of the tax revenue, or about $1.6 million annually.
Gabbard said 51 percent is earmarked for Police Department wages.
Without the funds, the department could be cut in half.
"Out of 22 guys, it looks like we’d have to lay off about 11," Gabbard said. "If we did that, you can only imagine how that’s going to affect us."
Because of the looming tax vote, Chief Will Dawson has backed off a half-cent tax proposal that, with voter approval, would have funded a station.
"As much as we need a building, I think it’s a good idea to wait and see what happens there," he said.
If the countywide tax fails, Dawson said, "then possibly we could ask for a police tax for operations to replace it."
The police force operates out of City Hall. The half-cent tax would have brought in an estimated $5 million over 10 years to fund a police station.
Police calls since 2008 have averaged about 2,600 a year, according to the department.
Greenwood’s fire department receives between 25 percent and 30 percent of the tax revenue. Another beneficiary is the senior center.
"There’s also a portion of it, like 12 percent, that goes to county jails for the feeding of any prisoners that we may take in there," Gabbard said. "Every bit of the tax is needed."