Muskogee County voters will get a chance in May to weigh in on a proposal that would make $20 million available for industrial development efforts.
Commissioners authorized the May 11 special election during their regular meeting Monday. Voters will be asked to approve the issuance of general obligation limited tax bonds worth $20 million.
The bonds would be used as capital that could be loaned by Muskogee County Economic Authority to companies that plan to relocate or expand operations locally. Proponents say a county program superseded by MCEA, a public trust commissioners created in November, proved both popular and successful.
Marie Synar, industrial development director for the Port of Muskogee, said the two most recent GOLT bonds approved by voters were “repaid,” and there were no increased levies on property taxes as a result. She said the issuance of those bonds — one worth $7 million in 1998 and a second totaling $8 million in 2001 — helped create more than 600 jobs and generated additional property tax revenue totaling about $650,000 annually.
Synar said passage of the ballot proposition in May could be the key that helps her office lock in deals with the “prospects that are waiting for this bond money to become available.” All loans through the program would require the approval of Muskogee County Board of Commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke, who serves as MCEA chairman, said any applicant would be thoroughly vetted. Screening could include assessments conducted by Synar’s team, MCEA members, and commissioners.
“If the port’s involved when an application is submitted, obviously they’re going to do what needs to be done to mitigate the risks,” Doke said. “The (Muskogee County) Economic Authority is going to evaluate those applications and will mitigate any risks, as well.”
Tim Thompson, community affairs manager for OG&E and MCEA vice chairman, said the package voters will be asked to approve is one more thing “that tells potential businesses this community will care about you, and we want you here.”
“I think it’s a great deal,” Thompson said, telling commissioners last week why they should authorize the special election. “It will show employers ... that we, as a county, are willing to invest in businesses.”
Proponents of the package say this type of bond requires no property tax increases. Companies repay loans, which are secured by collateral.