, Muskogee, OK

January 8, 2013

Tahlequah passes excise tax

Increase to take effect April 1; much of it to fund street work

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Tahlequah voters narrowly passed a proposition Tuesday that will bring in more than an estimated $20 million in the next 10 to 15 years.

Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols called the excise tax proposal “vital” for the growing Tahlequah community, and enough voters agreed to pass the 3/4th of a cent excise tax.

A Cherokee County Election Board spokeswoman said the unofficial total with all six precincts reporting was 505 votes for, and 457 against the proposal that should bring an estimated $21,112,339 to Tahlequah. It will go into effect April 1.

Nichols has called the tax necessary for the continued growth of a town that has seen its population surge in the last decade. Many of Tahlequah’s roads, he said, had been put in place with a population of less than 10,000 people in mind. The United States Census from 2010 showed Tahlequah had nearly 16,000 residents.

At the heart of the tax is $11 million earmarked for eight street improvements Nichols said would need to be done, regardless of if the measure passed.

The rest of the money is set aside for various projects including a new compressed natural gas trash truck fleet Nichols said would save the town between $60,000 to $80,000 every year, Phoenix Park renovations, a new community center on the Northeastern State University campus, improvements to the police, fire and emergency management departments, a swimming pool and the second phase of the town’s sports complex.

Nichols said the tax is set for a 15-year term, but based on how fast Tahlequah is paying off an old sales tax — a half-cent tax that began in 2009 and is set to roll off in two-thirds the time expected — he believes the current tax will be completed in 10 years.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgforth