The Ardmore Development Authority Board of Trustees voted to take the bull by the horns and move forward in attempting to secure sales tax funding.
In a 7-0 vote, the board approved a motion to approach the Ardmore City Commission and ask for a special election for sales tax supporting economic development. The current sales tax will expire Sept. 30, as Ardmore residents elected not to renew it in November 2012.
A campaign has not been put in place to promote the sales tax. Discussion centered around the strategy as well as reasons the question had previously failed. One key reason centered on voter confusion on a big ballot. It was believed the role of the ADA was lost in the shuffle, and an effort needed to be made to inform voters about the success the organization has had in Ardmore growth.
The impact the loss of the sales tax will have was made apparent in discussions of a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. On a model based on the hope the sales tax is approved, the ADA would still operate eight months without tax funding. Projections indicate a deficit of $1,182,646.43 on airpark expenses. ADA Interim President/CEO Brian Carter said a "perfect storm" of events has led to the deficit. The loss of tax revenue, which was used to fund the Airpark Fire Department, combined with the expected loss of Federal funding for the air control tower, will take a toll. The ADA is seeking relief from the city by changing the language of its lease, which would enable it to use revenue for mineral rights to fund airpark operations as well as capital overlay.
Total non-airpark income was projected to be $735,807. To offset the losses, the ADA will lean on existing accounts.
"We have been building our war chest to offset the funding loss," Carter said. "We are hoping to be successful (with the passage of the sales tax), and we are going to burn some cash along the way."
A committee was formed to finalize the budget, which will be presented at the July meeting.
"We potentially have a very serious problem, and we need to look into that and we need to move forward on a positive note," Vice Chairman Gary Farabough said.
The ADA began discussions on a new building to house Department of Correction inmates, who are employed by the ADA, city and different entities as part of a state work program. Should the project be approved, the ADA would purchase the materials for the building, with the DOC providing 100 percent of the labor. There is no current estimate of cost for the project, as the specifications for a building have not been finalized.
Carter presented a vision for the future of the ADA: the 2014-2024 Strategic Plan. The plan consists of three parts. The first is a focus on recruiting and attracting professionals, skilled and semi-skilled and upwardly mobile entry-level workers to fill a gap in the hiring pool. Carter said there is a need for highly skilled workers in the Ardmore area, as a number of positions regularly go unfilled. He said there is a statewide need for a more qualified workforce within Oklahoma, but it is an area that is often discussed, yet rarely focused on. The plan also consists of full pursuit and realization of the International Trade Center at the Airpark, and attracting new industry. The line item was tabled until the July meeting.
ADA Vice President Mita Bates said the Succession Review by Crawford and Associates is 90 percent completed. The review consists of the use of sales tax and revenue from mineral rights; expenses reported by Wes Stuckey, the former president/CEO; the $600,000 loan from the city; and Hickory Ridge. Bates said the ADA was complimented on its internal controls and its documentation.