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January 19, 2014

All systems go for half-penny sales tax vote

DUNCAN — Plenty of time remains for the Duncan City Council to put a half-cent sales tax vote on the April 1 election ballot, despite a hiccup in the process last week, the city manager said.

On Tuesday, the council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. to vote on a resolution to determine if city voters want to continue the tax for five years.

The resolution was scheduled for a vote last week but action had to be postponed because the council agenda item did not match the election date contained in the resolution.

City Manager Jim Frieda noticed the clerical error while reading through the agenda with a city attorney, but it was too late to correct agenda, which must be publicly posted at least 48 hours before the council meets, he said.

The half-cent sales tax, initially approved in 1994, must be approved by a public vote every five years to continue.

The revenue has increased over the years and now totals almost $2 million annually, according to development officials.

The funds are used to spur economic development.

If approved by voters, the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation Board for the first time will share the tax revenue with the city, where voters last year defeated a bond issue to fix streets.

The city, if allowed to split the sales tax monies with the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation,  would use its share of the funds for infrastructure, including street improvements, water conservation and electric distribution.

“I’ve been working on a definition of ‘economic development’ since the mid-90s,” Frieda said. “It’s anything that will enhance the business atmosphere in Duncan. Infrastructure is important to economic development. It’s about impressing perspective investors.”

 The resolution that calls for the election does not have to be submitted to the Stephens County Election Board until Jan. 30 to clear the path to an April 1 vote.

Still, Frieda wants to get the resolution submitted with time to spare.

“It’s such a significant thing for the growth of our community,” he said. “Everything else on the agenda relates to that one item.”

He said the council and the DAEDF board will be transparent about the infrastructure improvements made with the tax monies, he said.

“The public is always going to be aware of what it’s being used for,” Frieda said.

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