The Pryor Times

Local News

June 10, 2014

Sales tax question will go to voters

PRYOR, OK — Mayes County Commissioners are sending a sales tax increase to fund the county jail to a vote of the people.

At the meeting Monday commissioners approved to put the question to the voters Aug. 26.

“We’re in a bad way here at the jail. The Department of Corrections pulling their inmates has created a void to the tune of about $500,000 for us to fill,” said District 2 Commissioner Darrell Yoder. “What we’re asking of the citizens is for another eighth of a penny for jail operations.”

Yoder said by law the jail should be funded through sales tax revenue, but many counties in Oklahoma, including Mayes County, have failed to be able to do that.

The commissioners discussed three drafts of the resolution, focusing mainly on drafts two and three.

The difference between the two contenders was an additional phrase on the third draft, which stipulates that “to the extent available” any extra funding from the tax increase could be used for other county entities.

Draft two alots the revenue solely for jail use.

Sheriff Mike Reed said it currently takes just over $1 million annually to run the jail.

“I was over there Saturday and there’s a broken air conditioner in booking,” said District 1 Commissioner Alva Martin.

“And that’s something we have to get fixed or there will be serious fights over there, especially this time of year,” said Reed.

Reed said the current eighth of a cent sales tax revenue the jail receives generates about $492,000 per year, covering about half the jail’s total bills.

“So if this tax increased is passed, even with both we’re barely getting by. That would generate the $1 million, which covers bills not fixing things or saving for the future,” said Reed.

The commissioners and Reed agreed that if draft three was approved it would be a long while before there was any “extra” revenue to pass on to other agencies.

“This won’t solve all the jail problems. But it will keep our heads above water, and buy us some time until the courthouse is paid off and we can make another plan,” said Yoder.

District 3 Commissioner Ryan Ball recapped the long term plans.

“So this would be an increase of an eighth percent. Then if we pay the courthouse off, it would decrease 3/8 percent then we’d seek votes to fund the fairgrounds and it would increase 25 cents,” said Ball.

Reed said he supports the third draft, with the additional stipulation. In the future, he said, if the second tax increases passes and all fairgrounds improvements are made, that tax could provide addiotional revenue for other agencies, including the jail.

“If someone was in a bind maybe this could help them out. We’re in a bind right now, and I’d hate it for anyone else,” said Reed.

The commissioners agreed they wanted to standardize the language of all tax increases.

“I think it’d be best to add this language now, to be more flexible even though our immediate purpose is funding this debt crisis at the jail,” said Ball.

 

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