HS mayoral candidate proposes voluntary tax to tackle homelessness

Property and personal tax bills in Garland County include a $10 voluntary assessment for animal services in the unincorporated area of ​​the county, a voluntary tax that the county tax collector’s office said raised $119. $620 last year.

Hot Springs mayoral candidate Eric Capaci is proposing a similar tax that could be used to address homelessness in the city. It’s an idea he will bring to the Hot Springs board of directors if elected Nov. 8. He is running against incumbent Mayor Pat McCabe, who is seeking a second elected term.

“I will be offering council a voluntary assessment on our property tax bills, very small, to be used only for the homeless and resources,” he said at the Gateway Community Association’s District 2 town hall meeting. held last week at the Webb Community. Center. “Those who have a heart for this group can pay this membership fee and volunteer.”

The current board has considered using part of the city’s $11.37 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation to build a resource center/shelter for the homeless. The city said the installation would allow it to combat loitering on public property.

A 2018 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals barred Boise, Idaho from enforcing its anti-camping orders without providing shelter beds for people withdrawn from public rights of way. The precedent prevented the city from evicting a homeless man who lived outside Hot Springs City Hall for more than a week, the city said.

The city was hesitant to once commit federal pandemic relief funds to a resource center/shelter without having an operator for the facility. He said local nonprofits are unwilling to commit their resources given the lack of affordable housing in the area. The scarcity of reasonably priced housing would put people back on the streets after leaving the resource center, the nonprofits told the city.

The consent agenda the board considered for its Oct. 4 business meeting included a resolution awarding a $63,550 contract to RKG Associates Inc. for a housing strategy plan. Housing is one of the five priorities that the city council has established for 2023.

“I think one thing that we’re all aware of is that homelessness is a problem in our city,” Capaci told the town hall. “The best way to move toward a solution to homelessness in our city is not to pour government money into it, but to bring faith and non-faith groups together and create an opportunity to find long-term solutions for this problem.”

He said paying $10 more on a property tax bill would help the homeless more than giving money to beggars.

“We will educate our citizens who are not helping by donating money to people standing on street corners,” Capaci said. “Better to give $10 to a group dedicated to ending all homelessness in Hot Springs than to give it to someone standing on a street corner.”

The Garland County Quorum Court levied the county’s $10 voluntary assessment to initiate a county-run animal services program. In 2018, after the county decided to continue using the city for animal services, the quorum court directed the tax proceeds to the county’s neutering and neutering program.

Early voting for the November 8 general election begins on October 24. The voter registration deadline is October 11.

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Jennifer R. Strohm