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|Mayo, council members lobby for taxes|
Monroe officials say there has been much progress in the city over the past several years, but they called upon the citizens and business leaders to continue efforts to better the community.
Monroe City Council members and Mayor Jamie Mayor spoke Wednesday about the state of local government.
They discussed the five property tax renewals and the new tax for the Monroe Regional Airport, which will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 4, ballot. They urged citizens to support the measures.
The six property tax proposals range from a 1-mill tax for improvements at the airport to 3.25 mills for capital improvements.
If approved, the airport tax would generate approximately $380,000 a year, according to Ouachita Tax Assessor Rich Bailey.
Mayo said the five tax renewals represent $4.1 million in annual revenue for the city.
"Those tax proposals are very important," Mayo explained. "The bottom line is five of them are renewals. It represents $4.1 million that's already in the budget. If they don't pass, do the math: $4.1 million for this community, and what it will do for this city.
"Regardless of what people think, if they don't pass, we're going to have to cut the budget by $4.1 million. We're talking about police, fire, capital improvements, the civic center, the zoo.
"That's some significant things, and not to mention the airport, where we're trying to construct a new terminal that will bring us into the 21st Century."
Mayo said the city has identified $24 million in various funding sources for the new airport terminal. The total cost will be $35 million.
City council chairman Red Stevens thanked CenturyTel for its efforts in bettering the city of Monroe. He said the city will stand by CenturyTel to make sure the company remains successful.
CenturyTel announced Monday it would merge with EMBARQ, an telecommunications company based in Overland Park, Kan.
"We have got to help CenturyTel because they are doing everything they can to help the city of Monroe, and we've got to give back … how do we do that? We build a new airport," Stevens said. "When people leave their plane in the city of Monroe, we want them to step out into a state-of-the-art airport, and come through our industrial park and see all the fine work we've been doing," Stevens continued. "The renewal of these taxes is very important. My daddy always said, 'you get what you pay for.' If you don't put nothing into it, you can't get nothing out of it."
Councilman Arthur Gilmore said residents can soon expect the four-laning of Tower-Armand Drive as well as a service road running from Lowe's to Nutland Road.
He said a four-laned Tower-Armand Drive will take pressure off U.S. Highway 165 and Louisville Avenue.
"You will see those things in the very near future," Gilmore said.
One thing Gilmore said he was upset about was the recent opening of the Safari Gentleman's Club at 812 N. 3rd St. near Louisville Avenue, across from the Blue Monkey Tavern, in Monroe's historic Garden District.
The city council two weeks ago approved a liquor license for Safari Gentlemen's Club.
"That's one thing I am not proud of in my district," Gilmore said. "I voted against that thing, but it's in the district for right now."
"Hopefully it will disappear in the very near future," Gilmore added.
Councilman Ben Katz and Gilmore both voted against granting a liquor license for the club.
While many areas of the United States have felt the brunt of the recent financial crisis on Wall Street, Katz said Monroe has remained in good shape.
"Our banks are standing tall, and there's not even a rumor of them being in trouble," he said. "That's good."
"Everybody else may have that problem, but we don't," Katz continued. "You hear about all the problems in the financial markets, but it's not touching Monroe that much. We lost Guide and State Farm, and it hurt, but we recovered.
"We've made a lot of progress in this time. I've been on the council for nine years, and I've seen a lot of great things happen, and they continue to happen."
He said the most recent audit of city finances should show the city is in good shape. That audit report is expected to be released some time after Nov. 1.
Councilman Jay Marx said the city has prospered because city leaders have put aside their differences and worked together to better Monroe. He also said improvements at the airport are greatly needed for the advancement of the city.
"The airport is something that is past due," Marx said. "It is the front door of our community. For so many people, it's the first thing they see."
He also encouraged residents to support the five property tax renewals.
Over the past two years, the city has lowered millage rates, according to Marx.
"I am proud to be part of a government that not once, but twice, has rolled back millages," he said.
Marx also said the city should learn in two weeks whether railroads will cooperate in creating a quiet zone in downtown Monroe.
"Maybe we can get rid of the whistles disturbing everyone going through the downtown area," he said.