Coweta voters will head to the polls on April 7 to cast ballots on a one cent sales tax increase for the community. Dubbed “One for Coweta”, the vote is one that city leaders believe is essential to keep the community moving in the right direction.
A second public meeting on the issue will be held Monday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Coweta City Hall, 310 S. Broadway and residents are urged to attend.
The tax, if approved, will help the city finance capital projects such as municipal buildings, parks, public infrastructure, equipment and any major upgrades thereto.
Coweta City Manager Roger Kolman said after much consideration, city officials chose to pitch the sales tax rather than go with an ad valorem tax based general obligation bond issue to fund these projects.
“I think it’s a very positive way to do it. It spreads the cost around to everyone who uses the infrastructure. They do their shopping in the community,” Kolman said. “Secondly, it allows you to not be in conflict with anything the school is doing.
“Inevitably the school will have to issue more general obligation bonds to build more classroom space. You don’t want your citizens to have to approve a GO bond issue for the school district versus one for a road project, per se.”
The city manager said general obligation bond debt is more expensive than other debt issues because of all that goes into the process.
If approved by voters, the measure will take Coweta’s tax from 8.8 percent to 9.8 percent. Of those amounts, the city’s share will go from 3 cents to 4 cents.
“Coweta has never had more than the three 3 cents. Going to 4 cents will give us the same tax rate and structure as the city of Wagoner,” Kolman noted.
Kolman said since public discussions on a tax increase first started, the vibe in the community has been “kind of mixed”.
“Some people are always a little skeptical of government,” he said. “The important thing people need to keep in mind is with an election like this, the tax is legally restricted to be used for the purposes that the voters approve.
“Basically, voters will approve the ability for the city to collect the tax to do these types of projects — buildings, infrastructure and equipment. It can’t be spent on salaries or maintenance.”
Of primary concern is the need to improve facilities for Coweta fire and police departments. Kolman said, “We will do both of them as they are living in dungeons.”
“When the substation in the northern part of the city gets ready to go, that’s where this tax will go to,” he reminded.
Kolman said the biggest misnomer is that the proposed sales tax — a permanent tax — is just for general purpose use. He assured it not.
“It is restricted to be used for the purpose approved by voters,” he assured “Because our infrastructure — whether it’s buildings or roads — has deteriorated to some point and we are a rapidly growing community, this is the only way to go back and fix those problems and provide for our families the kind of amenities they would want in the community where they live.”
Kolman said the problem with infrastructure is the continuous need for something to be done to add capacity to it. If sewer lines need to be replaced two years from now, these kinds of funds can do that.
The city manager said the proposed one cent sales tax will generate an estimated $1.3 million per year.
“But over a period of time when you are leveraging grants and bringing together other revenue sources, you get to where you need to be,” Kolman reminded.
At the Jan. 20 meeting, Kolman will share information on the priorities identified by city staff and city council for addressing current and future key infrastructure.
The public will have an opportunity to ask questions, review the proposed project list and see comparative information on tax rates.
“A dollar on every $100 spent is very little to invest in the future of your community — an investment in the roads you will see every day when you get in your cars and drive to town to pick up your kids from school,” Kolman said.