Del City voters must decide whether to extend a temporary sales tax to fund construction of a new wastewater treatment facility and upgrades to city buildings, streets and equipment.
The ballot proposal would extend a 1.5 percent sales tax for 15 years until Jan. 1, 2033. The current tax, which was approved by voters in 2012, is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2017.
The sales tax election will be Tuesday, Aug. 23. The ballot will also include Republican primary runoff elections for County Clerk, County Court Clerk and a Democratic primary runoff election for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District.
City Manager Mark Edwards said an extension of the sales tax would provide a secure funding source to replace the city’s aging waste water treatment plant, which does not meet EPA and DEQ regulations. The city is spending about $1 million on the engineering phase of the project. Edwards expects construction of the facility will be in excess of $20 million.
“If we don’t get our sewer plant into compliance, the feds will take over the project and send us the bill,” he said. “We can also be fined up to $100 per day for not being in compliance.”
If the sales tax is not renewed, Edwards said Del City would have to consider raising utility rates or property taxes to pay for the wastewater treatment plant. He estimates that would raise utility bills by $20 per month for 20 years. If the sales tax extension is approved, construction could begin as early as spring 2017.
In addition to the wastewater treatment plant, the sales tax would fund several other capital improvements such as water and sewer line replacement, extension and design, property acquisition, purchase of police and fire vehicles, construction of a new library building, and public works equipment.
A new library is included in the current sales tax. Edwards said the project may not be completed by 2017, so it was added to the sales tax extension to provide adequate funding.
The sales tax would also fund road projects on Hisel Road, Bryant Avenue (SE 29th to SE 15th streets), Scott Street and others. Money would also be used to remodel the John Smith Sports Center,
Senior Center, Eagle Lake Trail and other recreational and beautification projects.
Edwards said the city would also use funds to raise and maintain salaries of police and fire personnel.
“It’s very difficult to find qualified applicants and hire firefighters and dispatchers,” he said. “This would help us get up to the regional average for pay and maybe our qualified people will stick around for a while.”
As part of the proposal, voters will also be asked to modify the existing sales tax to provide relief for the city’s operating budget. The proposal would allow the city to divert up to 10 percent of the 1.5 percent sales tax revenue to the city’s general fund.
“That would help with funding for employees and other operating expenses,” Edwards said. “We’re down 18 positions now and that effects the ability of our day-to-day operations.”
The sales tax proposal would also continue to provide funding for juvenile justice programs and administration.
The sales tax is expected to produce about $76 million over the 15-year span.
An extension and modification of the sales tax would require a majority vote on Aug. 23.