City plans to pursue tax absconders

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth met with senior Alderman Bill Brumett, City Treasurer Greg Gustek and several leading city employees in the mayor’s conference room Tuesday in an effort to devise strategies on pursuing businesses that aren’t paying the hamburger tax.

The tax is collected at restaurants and hotels.

The city council in December approved an ordinance that may put the tax truants out of business unless back payments and penalties to the city are satisfied.

Brumett co-sponsored the measure along with Alderman Wayne Easterly. During Tuesday’s meeting, Brumett questioned City Collector Albert Ridgell on the statuses of delinquent merchants and inn keepers as well as a number of occupation licenses. The ordinance outlines procedures that could result in denial or revoking of the business licenses, financial penalties, misdemeanor charges, or daily fines of up to $500 on firms that fail to satisfy matters within 30 days of being notified by the city of an infraction.

There’s little trouble with hotel or motel proprietors making timely deliveries of their customer tax assessments, but several restaurants and fast-food dealers are traditionally tardy with their turnovers. Brumett estimated that the city is owed roughly $80,000 just by the two Domino’s Pizza franchises alone.

Brumett had earlier described the absconders as “double thieves.”

“They’re collecting sales tax from their customers, who expect and deserve to have their tax dollars turned over to the city to help pay for city services to its residents,” he said. “But they’re keeping the money themselves and I assume they’re spending it if they not paying the city. So, they’ll stealing from citizens twice.”

Others attending the meeting were police Lt. Kelvin Hadley, City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott, Finance Director Steve Miller, Internal Auditor Gina Devers and Advertising and Promotions Director Bob Purvis.