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Will Altus voters pay higher taxes for infrastructure improvements?

Altus_The City of Altus has heard a lot of complaints about the condition of its buildings - the run down police station, outdated city hall, and a high school that hasn't seen any improvements since 1960.  Repairing it costs money, and now there's a proposal to get some.  The "Metropolitan Area Projects Plan (MAPS)" would raise the sales tax to fund wide-ranging improvements to city buildings - however, it's all up to the voters.  The proposal will cost Altus residents $34 million - a lot of money for a city that size.  However, the proposal only extends an existing one-cent sales tax by ¾ of a cent. 

Altus School Superintendent Bob Drury says that the high school's roof is leaking, is not wired for modern technology, and the campus itself is spread too far out.  "If we don't do something with it, we're going to have to find somewhere else to house those kids," he says.  "At the current time, we don't have a place."  However, with their share of the $34 million MAPS sales tax increase plan, they could get their new roof, updated campus, and add an enclosed courtyard for students.  "We weren't capable with just our own funding to be able to do this," says Drury. 

The police department is also in bad shape.  Their 100-year-old building is full of mold and water damage, along with outdated insulation.  "We're wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayers' dollars just in heating and air," says Altus Police Department Chief Mike Patterson.  "Every winter and every summer - it just goes through the ceiling."  City Hall is crumbling too.  But, with MAPS' plan, it could be redone.

All of the potential improvements hinge on whether the folks in Altus will allow their sales tax to be increased.  "It's a very small amount of money on an individual basis, but collectively it will have a huge impact on our community and Southwest Oklahoma," says State Representative David Braddock (D).  He supports the plan and says people won't see a marked difference in their taxes.  "If you go to Wal-Mart or United supermarkets, or wherever, and spend $100, it'll only cost you 75 more cents." 

Patterson says that the proposed tax increase isn't frivolous.  "This isn't like a luxury.  There's a definite need for this," he says.  "We really want to make a bold statement to the rest of the state, and the rest of the world, that Altus is on the move, we're moving forward, and we're a great place to come live and work."

There will be a town meeting in Altus on Thursday, August 14, to show the public exactly what the proposed plan will do for the community.  The presentation begins at 7 p.m. at the Altus City Auditorium and is open to the public.  Altus voters will go the polls on August 26, and if the issue passes, the MAPS renovation projects should all be complete in 2-4 years.

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