A significant amount of responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of voters for the Nov. 6 election. In addition to the obvious national election, voters are being asked to weigh in on important state and county questions.
Locally, county voters are being asked to raise property and sales tax to fund needs of two cities and the county. According to a 2011 brief issued by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, sales tax in Oklahoma ranks as the fifth highest in the nation at 8.66 percent. Should all the sales tax questions gain approval, most of the county would pay slightly more than the state average. What it comes down to is what is needed within the county and the cities.
"If you compare the Ardmore sales tax a year ago, if all these issues passed, there would be an increase of a 1/4-cent," Curtis Davidson, GAPS co-chair, said about taxes, excluding Healdton's 1/2-cent proposal. "With the increase of a 3-mil levy, if you add up additional costs, is it worth the cost to the voter. You have to look at it personally. We know we are getting the money (if taxes are passed) and is it worth it."
There are a couple of issues regarding the sales tax for schools that has county voters concerned. One issue is the amount of sales tax already dedicated toward education within the City of Ardmore.
Currently, Ardmore and Plainview are receiving revenue from a 1/4-cent sales tax and will continue to do so until Sept. 30, 2014, when the current city GAPS sales tax expires. Passage of the county sales tax means those paying sales tax in Ardmore would support two streams of education-based sales tax for one year and nine months.
Ardmore and Plainview public schools currently split $1,300,000 annually through the city sales tax, with 66 percent of the revenue going to Ardmore. The revenue gained through the county sales tax would be less and both schools would be able to offset the decreased funding by gaining revenue simultaneously.
"It was a tactical decision," Jessica Pfau, GAPS co-chair said. "It softens the decline they would experience."
GAPS could have waited until the current city sales tax expired, giving Ardmore and Plainview funding through the county sales tax through 2018 rather than having it terminate in 2016. But GAPS elected to present all of its proposals together.
"We felt it was important to gather all these issues to get the entities tied together," Davidson said.
The second issue lies in the wording of the ballot and resolution. The proposition printed in the Sunday edition of The Ardmoreite states "all common school districts wholly located within said county."
The word wholly has provided ammunition for opponents of the tax and also has some area schools concerned. Of the nine school districts in Carter County, Lone Grove, Healdton, Wilson and Fox each have part of its district lying outside of Carter County.
Page 2 of 2 - In the resolution, it lists each school district by name in identifying who will benefit from the sales tax, but it also, once again, describes each of those school districts as being wholly within the county.
Prior to presenting the resolution to the Carter County Commissioners, the words "in part" were struck from the resolution denying Velma-Alma and Davis access to sales tax revenue, but the word "wholly" was kept in the resolution.
To date, one county school board member has requested that the Oklahoma Attorney General look at the language but was denied, as the request must come through District Attorney Craig Ladd. The most common concern is whether the language of the resolution would stand up to legal action and whether or not those schools not wholly within the county are properly protected in their access to sales tax revenue.
Ladd said all nine schools in the county will receive revenue through the tax, referring to the resolution which was approved Aug. 20.
"After reviewing the resolution passed by the county commissioners on Aug. 20, 2012, which accompanies the 0.25% sales tax proposition for the benefit of schools in Carter County, it is clear that the schools which will benefit from said tax, if approved, are: Ardmore Schools, Dickson Schools, Fox Schools, Healdton Schools, Lone Grove Schools, Plainview Schools, Springer Schools, Wilson Schools, Zaneis Schools," Ladd said.