By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Perkins residents will decide Tuesday to approve or reject a one half of 1 percent sales tax to fund public safety improvements.
Officials said the growing city and aging resources show the tax is needed.
The tax would be collected for seven years and then drop to 3/8 of a percent. The revenue generated would be limited to capital outlay or capital improvements on public safety projects.
Census data shows in the past 10 years the city’s population has increased 25 percent, Police Chief Bob Ernst said. More growth means more work for public safety employees. In 2009, police filed 415 incident reports and fire fighters responded to 120 calls for service. Last year those numbers rose to 500 and 490, respectively.
“It’s going to help make our community safer,” Ernst said, noting Perkins has not seen a tax increase in 29 years. The proposition would make its taxes equal with Stillwater. The police department needs more vehicles, computers, software, rifles and eventually its own dispatch, Ernst said. The department’s 9-year-old police dog is scheduled to retire in the next few years and the city’s storm sirens need backup batteries to makes sure residents can be warned during a power outage.
The fire department is in desperate need as well, Fire Chief Joe Barta said. Some of the department’s trucks are 25 years old and due for an upgrade. The breathing apparatuses for firefighters are also ready to retire. The main station needs to be remodeled.
All these purchases mean hundreds of thousands of dollars need to be found, prompting the tax.
“Public safety is expensive,” Ernst said. Estimates from the city show the tax could generate $132,000 a year during the first seven years and then $99,000. What gets taken care of first with the revenue is up to the city manager and the city commission. The city manager decides what needs to be purchased but must obtain approval from the commission for anything expenditure over $5,000.