LUTHER — City leaders are asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax hike on Tuesday, and are hoping for a better result than last time.
Kim Bourns, a member of the five-member Luther Board of Trustees, said a similar issue was crushed in June when voters went to the polls in the small eastern Oklahoma County town.
“We only had 36 ‘yes' votes,” Bourns said.
Mayor Ed Threatt said a few hundred people voted against it.
“We failed miserably,” Threatt said. “But I am an eternal optimist.”
This time, more effort was put into the education process, including a public forum on Thursday that drew more than 30 people. What officials want is to put an estimated $750,000 into a special fund for municipal projects — mostly infrastructure improvements.
Bourns said about 2,000 people live in the Luther area and probably about half are eligible to vote. If the measure passes, the city sales tax would be at 4 percent — up from the current 3 percent. It would be collected by about a dozen businesses in town and take effect April 1.
The extra 1-cent sales tax is scheduled to last 20 years — although Bourns hopes the money could be raised in less than 10 years with businesses collecting about $80,000 a year.
Bourns did admit it could be tough to get the issue passed.
“The people hear the word ‘tax' and that's all they hear,” he said.
Threatt said he doesn't necessarily like bringing the issue to the public but sees no other way to fund projects such as upgrades to the city's sewer system.
“Many of our lines are just not up to code,” Threatt said.
Bourns said repairing one such line recently cost the city $27,000.
“That's a lot of money for us,” he said.
There is also $100,000 worth of work that needs to be done on the city's water tower.
“We've applied for a grant, but those are very competitive,” the mayor said.
The money would be used for capital improvements only and could not be used for employee salaries or to retire any existing debts.
“Any project would have to go through the legal bidding process,” Bourns said.
Bourns said more water and sewer lines may become necessary as he expects more people to move to Luther. Some residents might not embrace growth, he said.
“There are people hesitant to change,” he said.