MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 5, 2013

Voters to decide Tahlequah excise tax Tuesday

3/4 cent sales tax would fund street improvements

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Tahlequah voters are faced with a decision Mayor Jason Nichols calls “vital for the future of the community.”

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to vote on a proposition that would impose a municipal excise tax of 3/4ths of a cent on all taxable sales within in the city limits.

If passed, Nichols said the tax would go into effect April 1, and would end “on or before April 1, 2028.”

“It supposedly points to a 15-year term,” Nichols said. “But we believe it will pay off in 10.”

At the heart of the tax, which will bring in an estimated $21,112,339, are eight street improvements Nichols called the essential component of the proposition.

“It’s absolutely vital,” Nichols said. “There is nothing in this plan that the city can do through its usual resources. And with street projects, they’ll eventually need to be done, regardless. I’d rather do it before inflation hits asphalt prices.”

About $11 million of the new proposition is set for the eight different street projects.

“Every city struggles with repairing and needing to repair streets,” Nichols said.

Nichols said a current sales tax of a half-cent from a previous capital improvement plan is expected to roll off the books in the next four to five years.

“That tax began in 2009, and we’ve been ahead of collections the entire time,” Nichols said.

Nichols said the previous tax looks like it will be “paid down” in about two-thirds of the time allotted to it in 2009.

“That’s why we believe we can pay this one off in 10 years instead of 15,” Nichols said.

Another key aspect of the bill, Nichols said, would be purchasing new trash trucks for the city that would run on compressed natural gas.

“It would probably net us between a $60,000 to $80,000 savings each year,” Nichols said. “Probably two-thirds of our fuel money — like $135,000 to $140,000 — is set aside for that department every year.”

“There are improvements that need to be made if we’re going to continue to grow,” Nichols said. “And we feel that this is the only way that will get done.”

United States census data shows Tahlequah grew almost nine percent from 2000 (14,458 residents) to 2010 (15,753.)

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.