By Tonya Little
The City of Midwest City called a special city council meeting held on August 17 at the Charles J. Johnson building located at 8726 S.E. 15th St. The meeting was called to present and discuss the city’s proposed sales tax increase. Mayor Matt Dukes conducted the presentation for a full room of members of the community. He heralded the strong leadership and vision which has kept
Midwest City in an upward positive growth curve during the last 75 years, and commented that they want to continue to provide that with a strong fiscal responsibility to its citizens. The city is transparent with their budget and put it online so everyone can see where every penny is spent, which gives the community a clear picture of where the money is going.
“My job, and the council’s job, is to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about the community in which you live,” said Dukes. “We’ve set the bar very high for all the services we provide you as citizens, and we want to go higher. We want to continue to do that, we want to continue to set the bar higher than any other community around.”
Why are they asking for the community to approve a ¾ cent sales tax? The Mayor says that it’s just basic economics. Midwest City has had a flat revenue growth in the last several years, meaning that the city isn’t taking in enough from sales tax to meet the gap. The state of Oklahoma is the only state in the union that does not allow municipalities to draw on property tax. Which means the funding of all of the city programs and the services that they provide is limited to sales tax revenue, fees, and fines. Sales tax represents 76% of all funds taken in to the city.
While tax revenue has been flat, there have been many rising costs for the city which include costly healthcare, technology, maintaining competitive pay and equipment. Midwest City’s sales tax rate is 8.35%. Of that amount 4.5% goes to the state and 3.85% goes to the city. The allocation of the 3.85% is; Emergency fund 1.05%, Streets 1.29%, Parks & Rec. 1.30%, General Purpose 1.29%, Capital improvement 6.49%, Sewer Plant 10.43% and General Fund 25.67%. The city is asking for a .75 of one percent, or a ¾ sales tax increase so it will go up to 4.6%. The additional sales tax should generate approx $6,470,557 in additional revenue for the city, which the city officials and leaders believe is the best sustainable plan for the financial future of the city. The allotment of that additional revenue is projected as follows: Police Department $2,756,457 (FY 17-18 budgeted $12,986,942 with 121 employees), Fire Department $1,868,677 (FY 17-18 budgeted $10,565,922 with 83 employees) and the General Fund $1,845,405 (FY 17-18 budgeted $12,555,295 with 112 employees).
Recent independent operational studies that were conducted for both the Midwest City Fire and Police departments have also recommended the hiring of additional personnel. This includes 6 patrol officers over the next 3 years starting in FY 2018-19, which will improve the police department’s ability to be pro-active and put more officers on the street. It also includes 3 suppression firefighters in the FY 2019-20, which will meet the National Fire Protection Association standards.
“If I didn’t feel like this was the right thing to do, I wouldn’t be up here talking about this as your mayor,” explained Dukes. “The last thing that I want to do as an elected official, is obviously raise taxes. That’s kind of the death nail of a political career right there. But it’s not about us, it’s about the community that we live in, and we want to provide you with the community that you are used to living in.”
The city’s vision for the future is to continue to enhance the infrastructure citywide, to utilize all 458 current city employees who allow the city to function on a daily basis, and to continue to fund parks, playgrounds, streets, medians, trails, events festivals, animal welfare and shelters, juvenile programs and code enforcement. The city feels the best way to achieve that would be to have the additional sales tax in place. The community members at the meeting were interactive and positive on a whole about the proposal, asking different questions about the details given. The election will take place Oct. 10.