JAMES CRAIG CARLOCK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF A CLASS OF PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED APPELLANT
THE CITY OF BLYTHEVILLE, ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE MISSISSIPPI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, CHICKASAWBA
DISTRICT [NO. 47BCV-14-145 ] HONORABLE RICHARD LUSBY JUDGE
Offices of Harris & Morrison, by: James W. Harris and
Zachary W. Morrison, for appellant.
William Clark Mann III, for appellee.
F. WYNNE, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
Craig Carlock, individually and as a representative of a
class of persons similarly situated, appeals from an order of
the Mississippi County Circuit Court dismissing his
illegal-exaction complaint against the City of Blytheville,
Arkansas. He argues on appeal that the trial court should
have been permitted to look beyond the wording of the
enabling ordinance and ballot title in determining whether
tax money is being spent for an approved purpose. He contends
that case law from this court to the contrary should either
be overruled or not applied in this case. We affirm.
period of time, the City stopped paying payroll and
employment taxes to the federal government. In 2011, the
Internal Revenue Service made a demand for payment of the
unpaid taxes. In December 2011, the City passed an ordinance
proposing a temporary one-cent sales and use tax to be
collected for fifteen months. The City passed a second
ordinance calling for a special election to be held on the
proposed tax on March 13, 2012.
ballot title for the proposed tax stated,
The Sales and Use Tax shall be levied and the net collections
received used by the City to pay and remit federal and state
income tax withholdings, employer and employee FICA and
Medicare payroll tax contributions, federal and state
employment tax contributions, and other amounts due and
payable by the City to federal and state authorities in
proposed tax was approved at the special election. The tax
generated $3, 519, 296.57 in revenue. The City paid the
federal government $2, 947, 853.05 to settle its tax
obligation. After the debt was satisfied, the City continued
to collect the tax for the last two months of the
fifteen-month enactment period. A total of $571, 443.52 in
revenue remained after the debt was satisfied. Those funds
were placed in a separate account and used to pay payroll
September 2014, Carlock filed a class-action complaint
alleging that the excess revenue was an illegal exaction
because the tax was approved for the sole purpose of paying
the City's debt to the federal government. Carlock sought
to certify a class defined as "[a]ll citizens of
Blytheville, Arkansas, during the period of September 1,
2012, through December 1, 2013." The parties filed
competing motions for summary judgment. In his motion,
Carlock urged the trial court to consider media coverage of
the election, along with statements by City officials, in
determining whether the City's use of the excess funds
constituted an illegal exaction. Following a hearing on the
motions, the trial court entered an order granting summary
judgment in favor of the City and dismissing Carlock's
complaint. In the order, the trial court recited case law
from this court holding that the determination of whether the
use of tax revenue for a specific purpose is to be based on
the wording of the ballot title. The trial court found that,
based on the wording of the ballot title, the City's use
of the excess funds to pay payroll taxes was authorized and
there was no illegal exaction. This appeal followed.
is well settled regarding the standard of review used by this
court in reviewing a grant of summary judgment. Muccio v.
Hunt, 2016 Ark. 178, 490 S.W.3d 310. A trial court will
grant summary judgment only when it is apparent that no
genuine issues of material fact exist requiring litigation
and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Id. The burden of proof shifts to the
opposing party once the moving party establishes a prima
facie entitlement to summary judgment; the opposing party
must demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact.
Id. After reviewing the evidence, the trial court
should deny summary judgment if, under the evidence,
reasonable minds could reach different conclusions from the
same undisputed facts. Id.
court has held that any use of sales-tax revenue for purposes
other than those designated by the levying ordinance and the
ballot is in violation of article 16, § 11 of the
Arkansas Constitution and constitutes an illegal exaction.
Daniel v. Jones, 332 Ark. 489, 966 S.W.2d 226
(1998). This court limits review to the enacting ordinance
and ballot title because it has long been regarded as
axiomatic that the majority of voters, when called upon to
vote for or against a proposed measure at a general election,
will derive their information about its contents from an
inspection of the ballot title immediately before exercising
the right of suffrage. Christian Civic Action Comm. v.
McCuen, 318 Ark. 241, 245, 884 S.W.2d 605, 607 (1994).
This, indeed, is the purpose of the ballot title.
recognizes this court's precedent. Despite this, he
contends on appeal that in illegal-exaction cases involving a
tax enacted through an election, trial courts should be
permitted to consider evidence other than the ballot title in
determining whether tax revenue is being used for an
authorized purpose. To that end, he argues that precedent
from this court requiring a trial court to make the decision
based on the contents of the ballot title be either reversed
or not applied in this case.
decline Carlock's invitation to break from our
longstanding precedent. In Arkansas-Missouri Power Corp.
v. City of Rector, 214 Ark. 649, 217 S.W.2d 335 (1949),
it was argued that the fact that the revenue generated from a
tax enacted for the stated purpose of constructing a power
plant would be insufficient to cover the entire construction
cost did not render the tax an illegal exaction, despite the
absence of any indication in the language of the ballot title
that additional funds would be necessary, because the need