The Duncan Banner

August 2, 2013

Road repair redux? City seeks answers

Mike Smith
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — The City of Duncan could seek another vote on financing street improvements as soon as this fall, possibly asking residents to approve an increase in sales taxes instead of property taxes.

“One way or the other my bet is it would be before December,” City Manager Jim Frieda said.

Voters this past May rejected a proposed $9 million street bond to be funded through property-tax increases. But Frieda and members of the Duncan City Council have pressed on, saying a big fix is necessary because many streets are in dire need of repair and the work cannot be funded through existing revenue channels without piling on debt.

Another vote on the same property-tax proposal could not be held until November.

No elections are allowed in Stephens County in December and any special elections must be preceded by a resolution adopted at least 60 days prior to people going to the polls.

An election on a new proposal could be held on Oct. 8, according to a schedule of possible dates from the Stephens County Election Board, but that means the City Council would have to pass an authorizing resolution by Thursday.

That’s unlikely because Frieda said he wants to have a town-hall type meeting in the coming days to get more public input on any possible financing plan for streets.

He wants to have it in a larger place than council chambers, either at Duncan’s branch of Cameron University or the Simmons Center.

The council held a “workshop” forum on June 26 to discuss options of moving forward. About 20 residents showed up — way more than usual for council meetings — and most indicated preference for a sales-tax increase over property-tax hikes.

Some said the sales tax was more equitable because everyone pays that — including visitors who drive the city’s streets — as opposed to a smaller segment of only property owners footing the bill.

An option being discussed now would increase city sales taxes by a half cent. That would raise the rate paid in Duncan from 8.7 percent to 9.2 percent.

Frieda said he recently discussed street improvements with the Kiwanis and their feelings were “significantly different than the last time around.”

“There were more individuals who favored the sales tax than a property tax, so we’re going to have a town meeting to get more input.”

Frieda also said he and Ben Herrington, chairman of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation, had agreed to meet soon to at least discuss “philosophical” points about the half-cent sales tax DAEDF now gets for economic development.

DAEDF traditionally has used money from the tax to help attract and retain industrial employers who provide good wages and benefits. Some citizens have suggested that part of the money be tapped for street improvements.

Frieda said an election in November also made sense because it would give the city a better financial picture in setting next year’s city budget.