City resolution opposes SQ 779

Ponca City Now - August 23, 2016 11:12 am

Ponca City's Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Monday night opposing State Question 779, the proposed sales tax earmarked for education.

“This is not the solution to funding problems,” City Manager Craig Stephenson told commissioners.

In remarks to the commissioners, Stephenson said SQ 779 would "have adverse unintended consequences to the future ability of cities and towns to raise the needed revenues to operate their police departments, fire departments, local parks and pools, provide safe roads and bridges, libraries and many other government services expected by the various constituencies in each city and town."

Oklahoma's average sales tax rate is 8.77 percent and Ponca City's combined sales tax rate is 8.667 percent.

"This places Oklahoma as having the sixth highest sales tax rate in the nation and the passage of SQ779 would rank Oklahoma as the highest ranked combined sales tax in the nation," Stephenson said.

Oklahoma cities and towns rely on sales tax as the only tax generating stream of revenue, Stephenson said.

"Our cities and towns do not receive any property tax revenues for operations. Nor do they receive appropriations from the State," he said.

Passage of SQ779 would have a tremendous impact on cities and towns near state borders, such as Ponca City, as residents will decide to shop and live across state lines, resulting in both the state and the community losing vital revenue for operations and capital improvements, the city manager said.

"My wife is a classroom teacher and I know better than most who aren't in education that teachers need a pay increase," Stephenson said. "It is more challenging in the classroom today than ever before.

"There needs to be more funding for the school children. There are teachers who not only pay for classroom supplies for their students, but food for the classroom for their students, clothing, coats, field trips and other items. Parent-Teacher Organizations pay for playground improvements and extracurricular activities are financially supported by the various booster clubs," he said.

Stephenson continued, "No one questions that education is vital to the future of Oklahoma. If we impede the ability of cities and towns to generate adequate revenue to provide quality services to their residents, where will the educated children go? They will want high quality of life services — and deserve them. If they can't receive them in our cities and towns, they will continue to migrate to surrounding states that do provide them to ensure their communities flourish."

“This solution is not the correct solution for us,” Stephenson said.

Mayor Homer Nicholson said SQ779 is an extremely difficult bill.

“The Legislature has been defunding education for a number of years. The whole system needs to be improved,” the mayor said. "The whole system needs to be improved. The Legislators have been dummying down and defunding education for far too long."

The mayor said "I wish people would grab their legislators by the ears."

Both Stephenson and Nicholson stated firmly that the City of Ponca City is not anti-education, and the city has spent millions of dollars on education for children, including the citywide broadband network, laptops for students and community support for schools and children.

Nicholson said one of the problems is with the distribution of the money that would be raised by the sales tax. He would like for more money to go to K-12 schools instead of higher education.


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