Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 12, 2013

Sales tax might get time limit

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — Permanent may not be a concept used for a Garvin County sales tax as some voters are starting to voice a strong opinion a set number of years should be placed on the measure.

At the heart of some recent public discussions is a seven-year half-cent county tax passed overwhelmingly by voters back in 2007.

That tax is set to expire next summer as all three county commissioners have been clear they intend to ask voters to renew it during an election next spring.

The real question appears to center on what the tax measure will include when it does go before voters throughout all of Garvin County.

One of those voters, Elbert Clark, is among those who believe asking voters to support this sales tax on a permanent basis is a bad idea.

“If you don’t put a time limit on it you’re going to face opposition,” Clark said during an open meeting this week for a committee formed to look closer at the tax plan.

“When you throw it out there as a permanent tax I think it will draw a lot of opposition,” he said.

“I’m opposed to running it from now on. When you make it permanent it takes that part of it away from constituents.”

The half-cent has generated nearly $10 million for the county since it started nearly seven years ago.

Half the tax was earmarked to address a long list of needed improvements and renovations at the county courthouse building in Pauls Valley with many already completed and others still on the way.

A quarter of the tax has been split between the operation of the sheriff’s department and upgrades to the county jail.

The remaining quarter has been split equally among the three commissioners to go toward county roads.

In recent weeks commissioners have indicated they were looking at continuing a quarter of the tax for both the sheriff’s office and the county highway system with the remaining half placed in the county’s general budget rather being be earmarked as a way to address changing needs over time.

Johnny Mann, District 3 commissioners and committee member, has been the most vocal in detailing why it was proposed to not earmark half the tax.

“If you put it on the ballot you can’t change it,” Mann said about earmarking the tax revenues.

“With the checks and balances there we want to make sure it will be used where it needs to be used.”

Fellow committee members Joe Elam and Bob Leadford agreed, but both stressed the need for the tax is the biggest thing here.

“I don’t want to get into designating every penny of this tax,” Elam said. “There needs to be some flexibility in this.

“I think it’s more important to pass this tax rather than be hard-nosed about any of this.”

“From my standpoint you want some of that money in county general to have the flexibility and be able to move it around,” Leadford said.

Leadford added 75 of the 77 counties in Oklahoma have a county tax.

However, he said many of the counties are now experiencing problems with earmarked money piling up and not being able to go toward other areas of greater need.

Leadford did agree it does make him a bit nervous to make the tax measure a permanent thing.

During the meeting earlier this week committee members also appeared to be learning toward earmarking some of the tax funds, possibly 12.5 percent, for the county’s emergency communications, more specifically raising salaries for 911 dispatchers up to a higher and more competitive level.

(Editor’s Note: More on the county sales tax issue and the county’s 911 center will be featured in the weekend edition of the PV Democrat .)