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City of Pine Bluff faces funding challenges for new cultural district



Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The City of Pine Bluff is anticipating a new development in its downtown area, aiming to illuminate an important piece of local history. This development will see the establishment of the Delta Rhythm & Bayou’s Cultural District.

City council member Bruce Lockett shared his mixed feelings of optimism and concern regarding how the city intends to finance this initiative. As he stated, “We made a commitment, the money was there and it was projected to be there.”

The city council had unanimously agreed in November to fund $2 million of the projected $6 million budget for the project.

Lockett provided further details on the funding scheme, explaining that the agreed-upon sum was set to be distributed over two years: approximately $600,000 for the current year and a remaining $1.4 million in 2024.

The councilman also noted that these funds were expected to be sourced from the existing “Go Forward Pine Bluff” sales tax, which was approved by a vote in 2017.

However, Mayor Shirley Washington articulated that the failure of the proposed sales tax initiative during a special election in May 2023 might influence future plans. She stated, “We have to be financially responsible with the dollars that we spend, and so we were kind of putting the brakes on it for a minute to see where we were with projects that were already on the table.”

According to the mayor, if the sales tax proposal had been successful, it would have contributed additional funds for ventures like the cultural district. Despite these complications, Mayor Washington affirmed that the city remains committed to fulfilling its promises.

Given these financial challenges, the progress of the initiative has been somewhat slower than expected, and city leaders are currently examining their budgets. Lockett commented, “Right now, we’re only trying to get $590,000 transferred from the five-eighths tax fund.”

In an effort to steer the project forward, Mayor Washington intends to convene a meeting with the city’s development and planning committee this week to discuss the way ahead.

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