The votes were counted on Tuesday and it concluded with mix results for two sales tax propositions. Voters approved a three-fourths of one percent tax for Logan County. Meanwhile, City of Guthrie voters rejected a proposed one percent increase.
The failed city proposition would have increased the city sales tax from three to four percent.
With the voter approval of the county tax, the three-fourths tax will be divided equally (1/4) to help maintain roads and bridges, jail operations and maintenance and the 13 rural fire departments. The tax is scheduled for a 10-year sunset clause.
“Thank you for voting today and for your continued support,” Chief Deputy Richard Stephens of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office said. “We will continue to be responsible stewards of your money and continue to provide exceptional services to the citizens and visitors of Logan County.”
County Commissioner Mark Sharpton (District 1) says he is excited to see what the future has in store when it comes to county roads and bridges, but says it will not be a quick fix.
“I am happy the people had their say. After people trying to misrepresent the truth of the county issues the people saw it was a need,” Sharpton said. “Now the Board of County Commissioners will need to be frugal and improve the roads and bridges that will show the people that they are trustworthy. This will not be an immediate fix; it does give the Commissioners another arrow in the quiver.”
For the Guthrie Fire Department it was a range of emotions with both sales tax propositions affecting the department. Fire Chief Eric Harlow is proud of the county’s results, but says the failed city tax is disappointing.
“The county funds will help our rural fire protection efforts, but a continued lack of city funds will hamper any efforts to improve the quality of service to our Guthrie citizens,” Harlow said.
Half of the proposed increase would have given the fire department, along with the Guthrie Police Department and city employees and departments, each one-sixth percent to go towards competitive compensation, benefits and related equipment. The remaining 50 percent would have been allocated towards capital improvements.
“We will continue to have some of the lowest paid firefighters in the state and we still have two city trucks that are in desperate need of replacement. Just the cost to replace those two vehicles is near $1.5 million dollars. If we continue to lose firefighters due to the pay issues, the cost is priceless as we lose much experience and training,” Harlow said.
Despite the disappointment, Harlow remains optimistic.
“This city will survive as we always do, regroup and look at other options. We greatly thank those that supported the efforts.”
Guthrie City Manager echoed the same feelings and thanked those who helped put the proposal together.
“I would like to thank the rate and fee committee and the City council for their hard work in developing the tax proposal. Additionally, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the city staff that has tirelessly worked to serve the great citizens of Guthrie,” Sereniah Breland said.
Breland says the city staff will now move forward and look for ways to continue quality of life in Guthrie.
“We will develop additional cost saving initiatives in order to maintain the quality of life that our citizens have come to expect and deserve. While the one percent sales tax increase did not pass, City staff along with direction of the City Council will continue to cautiously expend sales tax revenues with continued transparency,” she said.
What the sales tax will look like
Beginning on Oct. 1and running through Dec. 31, 2014, the total sales tax for Guthrie city limits will be 7.75 percent and the county tax will be set at 4.75 percent. Come Jan. 1, 2015, the total sales tax for Guthrie city limits will increase to 8.25 percent and county to 5.25 percent.
Inside Guthrie city limits, there are 5,554 registered voters with only 1,100 (19.8 percent) making it to the polls on Tuesday.