Today registered voters in Stephens County are weighing in on the extension for the Fairgrounds Tax.
The language is the same to keep in place the 0.25 percent sales tax already in effect right now which will end Dec. 31, 2020 should the Special Election fail. If it passes then it would reinstate on Jan. 1, 2021.
The tax has been in place for about 20 years and the question being put forth to voters is whether the funding should be continued for another 20 years, expiring at the end of 2041.
The fairgrounds uses the money to keep operation costs lower thereby bringing in more events which impact the local economies, according to Matt Byerly, Fairgrounds Manager.
“It’s a very big part of our operation with keeping our rates so low and being able to bring stuff to Duncan and Stephens County,” he said. “Without the tax, I would have to go up on my rates and stuff to make it work and you just don’t get the people in here. Most of the people in here are trying to make a profit too, off their events. If the rates go up then we lose businesses.”
Byerly said the rates to rent would just be too high where it “wouldn’t be worth it” for a lot of events who are being pursued by other fairgrounds.
The economic impact is something else that worries Byerly.
“If we can’t keep this place going and keep business in here you are looking at losing restaurants for Duncan, you’re looking at losing hotels,” he said. “This facility — this is going to blow your mind — directly and indirectly affects about 1200 jobs in Duncan.”
One new event Byerly was able to secure that wasn’t “strictly rodeo” was the Monster Truck event that saw 6,000 people attend.
Another point of contention is the building improvements the tax is written to cover.
Byerly said some of the those plans are different due to space limitations.
“That’s a big question I have been asked is ‘Where’s your plan of improvement?’ Well, till you really get the money it’s hard to have a plan because you don’t know what you got, until we know it (the tax extension) we might need our reserve that we’ve saved up to make this place run for another three or four years,” he said. “So in that sense I am kind of conservative on that stuff until you really need it. We do have some plans, I want to build another barn and I’ve got room for that.”
Another area Byerly wants to improve is internal. The rodeo arena is in need of updates as the seating is unequal. One end has a full view, and nice seats. The other has some seats blocked by pillars and is more of bleacher style. In the hopes of maybe getting concerts, the seating would have to be redone.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Lines are possible at peak voting times. Wait times will likely be shortest mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Anyone in line to vote at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.
To look up you polling place, verify registration information, or view a sample ballot visit www.elections.ok.gov.