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City wants to use property tax to fix roads

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- Lawton city officials may ask residents to consider paying higher property taxes to fix our deteriorating streets. 

City Manager Jerry Ihler says city staff has been working for months on compiling a list of roads, both in neighborhoods, and the city's primary high-traffic streets, that need to be repaired.  The cost would run about 55-million dollars, to be paid off over 13 years.  However, instead of proposing a sales tax, which has been the traditional method, the city council is looking at putting a property tax proposal on the ballot, which voters would decide on, possibly as soon as February.

 If the council decides to put this proposal to the voters, a homeowner with property valued at 100-thousand dollars would pay about 13 dollars more a year, in property tax.  Ihler said he hopes they can convince residents that roughly one dollar a month would be worth the benefit of smoother streets.

 Jerry Ihler said fixing the roads is one of the top concerns for Lawton residents, according to those surveyed.  

"This years survey indicated that 68 percent of the people who addressed the survey wanted infrastructure improvements, specifically streets", said Ihler.

The city identified some of those streets as 38th street south of Lee Boulevard, Sheridan Road South of Lee, from Lee to Bishop on both of those street and 38th street from Gore to Lee Boulevards. They will also consider residential streets. 

"It depends on whether council wants to give a greater priority on those residential streets or a greater priority to the arterial streets", said Ihler.

 Ihler said while residents complain about the condition of streets there are few funding options. 

The city usually funds street improvements through capital improvement programs that are funded by sales tax.The 2015 capital improvement program has around 68 million dollars but is only used for public safety. The 2016 program only has 130 million and is only used for the alternative water supply. Ihler said they have to keep the money in those funds for those reasons.

"Both of these programs through sales tax are identified to not run out and continue through the year 2025. So we have no other mechanism to provide a funding source to be able to make road way improvements", said Ihler.
 

If the city council does decide to set an election on the property tax proposal, it would be a different from the bond elections we're used to seeing from school districts.  Those proposals require a 60 percent majority for approval.  Ihler said that does not apply to cities, so a simple majority of 50 percent, plus one, is all that's need to pass.

The property tax proposal will be an item on the city council agenda before the end of the year. Ihler says a list of the streets that need improvement will be given to the city council and they will hold a workshop to discuss which streets take  priority, making sure the cost does not exceed the estimated 55 million.  Once approved it will appear on the February ballot for residents to vote on.

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