MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 29, 2014

Two sales tax extensions on June ballot

They’re for sewer system upgrades, city improvements

Muskogee voters will be asked during a special municipal election set for June 24 to weigh in on the extension of two sales tax measures.

The first proposition asks voters to extend for an additional five years a 0.32 percent sales tax to fund improvements to the city’s sewage system. Those improvements are mandated by a consent order issued by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

The second proposition asks voters to approve a five-year extension of an 0.18 percent sales tax. Revenue generated by that assessment would be used to help fund three projects identified by the Action in Muskogee initiative and 10 others approved by city staffers and councilors.

If both measures are approved, the city’s share of the tax imposed on most retail sales in Muskogee would remain at 4 cents on the dollar. With a 4.5 percent state sales tax and a 0.65 percent county assessment on retail sales, consumers who shop in Muskogee would pay 9.15 cents for every dollar spent if voters approve both propositions.

“This is replacing a tax that is expiring — we are not asking for any additional tax whatsoever,” Ward I Councilor Lee Ann Langston said. “This (0.18 percent sales tax extension) will move the city along, and the other (0.32 percent sales tax extension) will help our infrastructure.”

While there was little public debate about the sales tax measures during a recent City Council meeting, Ward II Councilor James Gulley said the projects that would be funded by the 0.18 percent sales tax were vetted thoroughly. If voters reject the 0.32 percent sales tax extension, Gulley said, the city will have to find another way to pay for the state-mandated sewer improvements.

“We spent hours vetting these projects — we are not making this decision lightly,” Gulley said about the capital improvement projects that would be funded by the sales tax revenue generated during the next five years. “We think they are very valuable to the progress of the city of Muskogee.”

City Manager Howard Brown Jr. said in addition to the mandated sanitary sewer system improvements, extending the temporary sales taxes would help fund three AIM projects. Those projects include a new Martin Luther King Community Center, improvements at Love-Hatbox Sports Complex and the demolition of unsafe, unfit or hazardous structures.

The 10 projects identified by city councilors and staffers include:

• Airport development and improvements.

• Waterline improvements.

• Water distribution system assessment.

• Traffic light synchronization at the Court Street viaduct.

• Traffic signal replacement at Country Club Road and Shawnee Bypass.

• Centennial Trail extensions.

• Self-contained breathing apparatus backpacks and replacement bottles.

• Police Department rehabilitation.

• Muskogee Public Library building maintenance and repairs.

• Kiwanis Senior Citizens Center renovations.

Brown projected the revenue from an extension of the 0.18 percent sales tax during the course of five years would total about $5.2 million. If revenue exceeds the cost of the defined projects, Brown said, surplus funds would be available for future council-approved projects.

The June 24 special election will coincide with the primary elections for county, state and federal races this year. City Attorney Roy Tucker said that will save the city some money, with the state picking up the tab for everything but the ballots.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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