By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
This fall, Midwest City voters will be asked to approve a sales tax to support capital improvement projects and parks.
City officials are seeking to extend an existing .4015% sales tax that is currently dedicated to the renovation and upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment facility. The proposal would also change how the sales tax dollars are spent – by applying the funds towards capital improvement projects and parks.
“We’re not asking to raise new taxes, we’re just asking to keep ourselves taxed the way it has been at 9.1% and use this money for capital improvements and parks,” said city manager Tim Lyon.
The current sales tax was approved by voters in November 2011 and was originally scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2025. It could also sunset early if the debt on the wastewater treatment plant is satisfied. City staff estimates the tax could sunset by late Fall 2023.
Under the proposal, the sales tax would no longer sunset, keeping the city’s rate at 9.1%. If it is rejected, the rate would decrease to 8.6985%.
Funds would be divided between capital improvement projects and parks. Eighty percent of the funds would be dedicated to unfunded or underfunded capital improvement projects. The other 20% would be dedicated to maintenance, operations and upgrades to the city’s parks and recreation facilities.
The current .4015% sales tax generates about $4.5 million per year, officials said.
Lyon said the city staff have identified nearly 100 capital improvement projects that could benefit from the sales tax proposal. Those projects are estimated to cost about $100 million. Some of those include improvements to drainage and stormwater controls, improvements to sanitary sewer capacity, extending utility service, and improvements to streets.
“We’ve seen a lot of rain over the past couple of weeks and there have been a lot of drainage issues in our city and our neighborhoods,” Lyon said. “Our drainage improvements are not being maintained as well as they need to be for effective flow on our streets. We do the best we can, but it is becoming more and more expensive.”
In addition to the 100 projects, the Original Mile neighborhood alone is also in need of $22 million worth of water and sewer improvements, Lyon said.
Midwest City currently receives about $750,000 to $1 million per year for capital infrastructure projects.
“This sales tax will help us to start tackling all the infrastructure needs,” Lyon said. “$4.5 million a year won’t go a long way towards the $100 million (worth of projects) but it’s better than the $750,000 a year.”
Lyon said the city has little funds dedicated for the maintenance and improvements of the 30 city parks. A study would be conducted to identify and prioritize needs.
“Parks do not always get a lot of love in the budget,” Lyon said.
Councilmember Pat Byrne said the city needs improvements to infrastructure and updated parks which help attract younger families to live in Midwest City.
“Several of the parks need ADA upgrades and need new equipment so they’re places that people want to take their kids to play,” Byrne said.
Byrne emphasized that the proposal will not raise taxes. He said the sales tax will have a negligible impact for individual residents but will have a big impact for the community. He said about 48% of sales taxes collected in Midwest City are from non-residents.
“There is a lot of work, and this is the only way that we feel that we can bring Midwest City into the next millennium,” he said.
The sales tax proposal will appear on the Sept. 12 ballot.
Town halls and informational presentations will be scheduled for voters in advance of the election. Updates regarding the meetings will be posted on midwestcityok.org and the city’s social media.
The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved a sales tax proposal that will be placed on the ballot for Midwest City voters on Sept. 12.
In a related item, the city council modified a monthly fee paid by residents through their monthly water bill. The 90-cent fee had been used to pay the debt on the wastewater treatment facility. The council voted to remove that requirement and allow the fee to be used for wastewater system upgrades. They also voted to remove a sunset clause on the fee and make it permanent.
The council adopted the fee in 2011 after concerns that the sales tax was not generating enough money to pay down the debt. The fee was set to expire on March 1, 2025 or when the debt is completely paid off.
“This changes the fee from paying down the debt to water and wastewater infrastructure,” said Don Maisch, city attorney. “And much like the sales tax, it will not result in any increase in fees. This is just to maintain that fee. And it changes its purpose.”
The council unanimously approved the ordinance with an emergency clause which makes the change effective immediately.
“This is not going to be an additional cost to the citizens of Midwest City, it’s going to allow us the opportunity to build for improvement with no additional costs from where we’re at,” said Susan Eads, Ward 1 city councilmember.