The A&P panel launches restaurant audits

The Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission intends to begin foodservice and restaurant audits by first testing with their own commissioners.

President Rosie Pettigrew, Vice President Berinda Eugene and Commissioner Lelan Stice own food service companies that would participate in the audit.

According to Sheri Storie, director of A&P, the audits were put on hold due to the pandemic, but the commission wanted to restart them in 2022. Storie said his office spent a lot of time chasing business owners whose taxes were up. pain.

George Stepps was hired as a compliance auditor, but his services never started, again, due to covid-19.

On trial and error, the verification process would start with the commissioners before being released to the general public, but some commissioners had concerns about the process.

According to Stepps, some have delayed their responses.

The audit letter Pettigrew said she received did not provide enough time to assemble all requested documents within 10 days. In dealing with the state, Pettigrew added, she has 30 days to make an appointment and then enough time afterward.

She also said restaurant owners have faced many hurdles during the pandemic and are revamping their menus, raising prices and having to lay off their employees.

Eugene said she did not recall a vote that had audits performed on them or their peers.

“If it’s in the ordinance, we don’t have to vote on it,” Storie said, adding that the issue had been discussed with A&P commissions in the past. “This is something we have to do if we are to be serious about collecting taxes.”

According to municipal ordinance 6669, the commission is responsible for collecting the A&P tax.

The commission may conduct an examination or inquiry into the establishment, tangible personal property, equipment and facilities, as well as the books, records, papers, vouchers, accounts and documents of any taxpayer or other person.

Taxes are due and payable on the 20the day of each month and deemed overdue if not paid on the first day of the following calendar month. Storie said overdue tax payments made up a large part of the collections.

Bricks and mortars had to pay their taxes, Storie also said.

“I think we should drive out the little food trucks,” Eugene said. “Those of us who are brick and mortar fight every day to keep our restaurants running.”

With food prices rising and local supplies dwindling, Eugene said she had to travel to other towns to purchase goods. She said food trucks make $ 8,000 a weekend while restaurant owners try to make $ 8,000 a month.

“Everyone is just trying to keep their doors open,” Eugene said, adding that the timing for an audit was not right.

If the audit is not implemented soon, Storie said, the budget may not be approved where the commission is drawing money from its reserves to fund the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

“They are going to need a huge repair and we will not be able to help them,” she said. “These are things we need to think about.”

Stepps assured the commissioners that the results of the audits would not be public information. He said he had no problem working with the commissioners on the audits and giving them sufficient time.

Speaking to food trucks, Stepps said he was chasing food trucks and even made house calls. Stepps said event planners who bring in food trucks must pay an assessment fee.

He was also concerned about the operations of sponsored organizers, but accused vendors of wondering how funds raised by the organizer were spent.

The alderman and commission secretary Glen Brown Jr. intervened, asking what the commission’s purpose as a tax collection agency is if it is not ready to start performing audits.

Cities like Conway, Storie said, have never stopped audits during the pandemic. While other cities have seen their tax revenues decline during the pandemic, Pine Bluff has increased.

“We have to start somewhere,” Brown said. Assessing commissioners first will give the commission a baseline to work with before making the process public, he said.

Pettigrew suggested that a secure email be generated as an alternative method to sending confidential documents for the audit process.

The commissioners agreed to launch a new audit process increasing the number of days from 10 to 30 and to provide secure email. They will also provide suggestions for improving the audit process during the trial period.

“Disregard the letter you received,” Storie said. “We will make some changes and resend the revised letter.”

About Walter Bartholomew

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