Man cannot build a swamp
Re Mara Leveritt’s article on the shopping center proposed for Dark Hollow in North Little Rock: When I worked for Metroplan, I wrote a part of the 208 water quality plan for Pulaski and Saline counties in the ’70s. One thing I learned is that wetlands of any type, whether rural or urban, serve as groundwater recharge areas. These cannot just be created as they plan to do with this project. Man cannot build a wetland. Your article did a very good job of giving the facts of the case. I feel that it pointed out that no matter how bad a swamp looks there are benefits.
The NLR sales tax
We are in full agreement with Max Brantley on the latest tax increase that North Little Rock has in store for us to build a baseball stadium. Don’t get me wrong. I love Alltel Arena, even though the poor people had to give up their neighborhood grocery store to make room for its construction. It has become an accepted part of the community even providing the occasional part-time job for residents, a far cry from initial promises of economic opportunity.
Now they come to us wanting us to pay for a ball park, which in all probability will supply very little by way of jobs or business opportunities for the community. It’s going to take a helluva sales job to get me on board and if I don’t see some very real numbers that will benefit us I am going to openly oppose it and I’m not alone on this.
North Little Rock
Schools: inadequate and broke
In response to the Lake View decision, the Arkansas General Assembly commissioned a team of education consultants to determine what changes should occur in Arkansas schools. Using research-based data, these experts designed a prototypical “adequate” school, and in the process, gave the legislature a list of education “must-haves” — a shopping list if you will of academic imperatives. Legislators tallied up the shopping list and produced a new school funding formula that, theoretically, would allow every school to pay for everything on the list. But education imperatives and funding formulas are one thing — “local control” priorities are quite another.
The consultants’ design of a prototypical adequate school did not include the big-ticket extracurricular fun stuff, like varsity sports — a logical omission since instruction in basketball, football, baseball, etc., is not part of our Constitution’s mandate. Consequently, the new funding formula of $5,400 per student does not include the cost of varsity coaches or sports facilities or any of the other costs associated with providing every Arkansas community with its very own publicly funded sports franchise.
Entrusting local school districts to spend their portion of the funding formula to pay for “adequacy” is much like sending kids to the store with a shopping list of household necessities and giving them just enough cash to pay for the list. If the kiddos stray from their list and opt to load their shopping cart with fun stuff, they’ll either have to skip some of the necessities or call home for additional funds. So it is with our schools. The “local control” kids are pushing the education shopping cart and they’ve loaded it up with $200 million worth of unfunded, nonmandated fun stuff. And that’s why, even after the largest tax increase in Arkansas history, our schools are still inadequate and broke.
Your paper reported that Arkansas ranked 49th among the states in property taxes per person, $371 in 2002.
I suspect many readers were amazed and suspicious, believing their own taxes to be, while not particularly high, not among the lowest. There is reason for their suspicion as the controversy over Deltic Timber’s efforts to stop condemnation of their development land in the Maumelle watershed demonstrates very clearly.
Follow my figures. Fewer than 3 million of Arkansas’s 33 million acres of land are taxed on their market value. That includes the acreage where you live or where your business sits. Thanks to Amendment 59 to the state Constitution, all the rest is taxed based on something called its “use” value, which is far, far less than its market value. Yet it’s all averaged to reach that $371 of taxes per person. Agricultural and timber companies got that stinker put into the Constitution in 1980.
Deltic and the other speculators who hold tens of thousands of acres along Little Rock’s west side — and elsewhere along the state’s booming cities — pay taxes based on its use (timber or pasture), which amount to $1 an acre more or less, sometimes as low as 36 cents an acre.
Central Arkansas Water is faced with having to acquire 1,100 or so acres in the watershed of the municipal reservoir to protect it from pollution by luxury subdivisions in those steep valleys. The taxes on all that land in 2003 totaled $1,714.75 based on an assessed value of $135 an acre or less. According to the paper, Deltic’s average sale price on lots in Chenal Valley is about $95,000; one went for $296,000.
Amendment 59 says owners should get the huge tax break only if land is “primarily” used for timber production or pasture. It is residential and commercial development of land and everyone in Arkansas and our schools are being robbed when it is not taxed on that market-value basis.
As the Baptublican jihad threatens to bring down the filibuster, the real problem — once again — is the lives of meaningless comfort the other 87 percent of Americans paying no attention to this issue are leading, while they possibly lament the $70 it takes fill the tank of the Hummer. As with the “average” German in the ’30s and ’40s, some may wake up one day to wonder how the country was taken over by zealots.
I am 65 years old, have voted in every election, am not now and have never been a Democrat. My political hero was Barry Goldwater, a true conservative. He and the other “old lions” of the traditional Republican Party will spin forever in their graves should the filibuster rule of the U. S. Senate be altered for Bush Lite’s over-the-top judicial appointments.