Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 3, 2013

Concerns target sales tax uses

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Questions and even concerns are now confronting Garvin County’s trio of commissioners about a county sales tax they are hoping to renew next spring.

Those concerns appear to center on earmarking the funds for specific needs and the length of a seven-year tax set to expire next summer.

With that in mind, commissioners have made it clear they intend to ask voters to renew it during an election likely coming on April 1, 2014.

Nothing is official just yet as on Monday commissioners got a taste of both the support and opposition for the tax out there in the public.

“There are some people kind of concerned about the 50 percent not earmarked,” said Paul Burton of Wynnewood

“We’re not opposed to the sales tax,” he said. “I think if the money is earmarked the people talking to us would be a bit more supportive.

“I don’t want to see this thing fail, but you’re going to have some opposition.”

The tax in place now, set to end June 30, 2014, was originally passed by an overwhelming margin back in 2007.

Half of 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 half cent tax has for the past few years 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.

Up to now commissioners have indicated they are looking at continuing a quarter of the tax for both the sheriff’s office and the county highway system.

Concerns expressed Monday focus on half the tax, which instead of being earmarked for any specific purpose would go into the county’s general budget.

Johnny Mann, District 3 commissioner and member of a sales tax committee, continues to stress it’s a good thing not to earmark this portion of the tax funds.

That, he said, allows the county to address the highest priority needs, which he stresses can change over time, instead of locking the money into specific uses.

“If you earmark it, it has to go to that one thing every month,” Mann said.

“You can’t do nothing with it except what it’s specified for,” he said. “It’s just locked in.”

An example of Mann’s point comes with the county’s 911 emergency telephone system.

The 911 center is not expected to have any funds earmarked specifically for it in this tax.

However, Mann said he and his fellow commissioners, Shon Richardson and Stan Spivey, have made it clear they intend to make 911 the top priority with the 50 percent portion of the tax not earmarked.

By not earmarking those funds it allows the county to address the changing needs over time, which for now are 911 but in the future could be something else, he added.

“Why would you want to earmark it and not spend it where you need it,” Mann said.

“If it’s earmarked you can’t spread it out where it’s needed.”

Concerns also focused on the commissioners’ plans to ask for the tax to be passed on a permanent basis rather than placing a set number of years on the measure.

To get more feedback from the public on any concerns or questions, a meeting on the sales tax has been set for a 1 p.m. start Monday, Dec. 9 at the commissioners’ office in the county courthouse.

Editor’s Note: More on the concerns expressed over the county sales tax measure will be featured in Thursday’s edition of the PV Democrat.