Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

November 14, 2013

County tax plan takes next step

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — A committee is looking for a Garvin County sales tax to have both earmarked uses and some flexibility built in when the measure goes before voters for renewal in 2014.

Five members of a committee met for the first time Tuesday to look closer at the possible future of a half-cent county tax set to expire next summer.

All agreed some of the tax revenue should continue funding specific areas, such as the sheriff’s office and county roads.

They also agreed the remainder, if renewed by voters in an election next year that’s all but certain, would better serve the county’s changing needs over time if that funding goes into the general budget and distributed by the county’s excise board.

“I would like this committee to come up with a recommendation as quick as possible and bring that plan to the commissioners,” said Johnny Mann, who is the District 3 county commissioner serving on this sales tax committee.

That’s exactly what happened as a tax proposal similar to the one in place now could go before Garvin County voters during an election on April 1, 2014.

What the committee is looking at is the current county sale tax — a half-cent measure passed back in 2007 for a seven-year period. The tax is set to retire June 30, 2014.

All three county commissioners have been clear they intend to ask voters to renew the tax on a permanent basis.

Although nothing is official until commissioners vote, the committee indicated its recommended plan includes the spring election date and a renewal of the current tax with half the funding switching from courthouse improvements to more general uses.

“If we put it in county general it gives the excise board the flexibility to address areas with the greatest need,” Mann said about not earmarking 50 percent of the tax funding and instead placing it in the county’s general fund.

“The excise board can disburse that money as it sees fit.”

Fellow committee member Bob Leadford agreed the move would give the county the best way to use the money in the areas that need it most.

“If you put it in the county general budget you have the flexibility on how to use it,” Bob Leadford said.

“If you earmark it then there’s no option but to spend it on that one thing,” he said.

Since revenue from the current tax started arriving in the summer of 2007 it’s generated nearly $10 million up to now.

One quarter of the tax would continue to be earmarked for the operation and maintenance of the sheriff’s office and county jail.

Another quarter would remain being split among the three county commissioner districts, which goes toward the maintenance of the county’s highway system.

With the current tax half of the revenue went toward a variety of improvements to the county courthouse building in Pauls Valley. Officials are quick to point out a long list of upgrades have been made to the facility over the past few years.

In this renewal measure, 50 percent of the revenue would be placed in the county’s general budget and used for a variety of purposes.

Editor’s Note: More on the county sales tax and how it might impact a 911 emergency dispatch center will come later in the PV Democrat.