Mtn. Grove voters to consider 1 percent sales tax for police and fire department operations - Mountain Grove News-Journal : News

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Mtn. Grove voters to consider 1 percent sales tax for police and fire department operations

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Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 2:14 pm

The Mountain Grove Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance at its regular meeting directing that a ballot measure be placed on the April 4 ballot calling for an election in the city of Mountain Grove imposing a one percent sales tax for the purpose of providing revenues for the Police and Fire Department operations.

The ordinance indicated that “all sales tax collected by the city from said Police and Fire Department sales tax shall be deposited in general funds, and shall be used solely for the purposes of funding the Police and Fire Departments.

“I have reviewed the budget and in more detail than I really cared for because I got pretty depressed...understand I just came from a state where, by state law, we were 100 percent reliable on sales tax and here you’ve chosen to be 100 percent reliable on sales tax. I can tell you the majority of towns in Oklahoma have four percent local sales tax. I’m looking at a very tight budget for this next year, to the point, where I’m even questioning if we can give raises and I know you’ve already done some ‘no raises’ with employees. Our police officers, are in my opinion, way under paid for what they do. Plus you all know that we’re a rotating door there. We train  them and they go off for bigger dollars. And that’s the nature of small towns and you’re never going to change that. We’re always going to be the training ground. But you get a few good ones and maybe you want them to stay. You might want to look at that. This started last Thursday and snowballed into this tonight. There are deadlines if we want to get on the April ballot...the people are the ones to decide if they want to pay it or not. But in order to really have the budget we need, this is going to be the best bet that we have of getting enough money to fund the departments that are necessary. It will allow us to get into a little more economic development...and also hopefully do something with the pay of our emergency services out there,” City Administrator Tim Schook stated.

It was indicated that money wouldn’t start to be collected until about October.

“We would still have a pretty slim budget for the ‘17-18 year,” Schook said.

“We would be looking a lot better financially and hopefully be able to accomplish a lot more things for the community, other than keep our head above water right now,” he said.

Alderman Michael Stearnes asked how much money would be generated by the proposal.

City Clerk Becky Davis stated that if the city does one percent it would generate about $1,000,000.

The Board also approved an ordinance calling for a conditional use permit for property located at 211 East 20th St. to be used as Carly’s Animal Inn, a pet daycare and boarding business. It was indicated that the facility would have an outside run hooked into the sewer. All neighbors within 185 feet were notified and none  of them had any objections.

The Board was also told that after further study the city can’t franchise fee petroleum products that don’t occupy the right of way like natural gas, electric utilities, and cable TV, and that there would need to be a change to the city ordinance.

Schook stated that in the three cities he has managed, this is the first one were propane tanks were allowed in the city limits. Schook stated that he could do research to see what other places do. It was indicated that if the city would opt to limit propane, that everyone with propane now would be grandfathered in.

Schook stated that it was his understanding that natural gas is available every place in the city.

“It’s really a decision the Council will have to mull over and think about and decide how they want to address the issue,” Schook said.

A question was raised on how many tanks there were in the city and if this figure could be determined.

Alderman Jim Dewitt stated that the Council had voted on not allowing propane at new residences in the past and had decided not to do anything with it.

“I’d still like to see it stand that way,...there are a lot of people inside the city on propane. I was told propane is more dangerous than natural gas, I disagree with that,” Dewitt said.

“I don’t think it is something we need to make a decision on tonight...if enough interest down the road and we want to talk about it some more than we do,” Schook added.

A representative of a propane company which operates in the city asked if the city recognized how much money propane companies bring to the city.

“My theory is, I’m paying 5 percent (franchise fee) for natural gas. The people that burn propane aren’t paying the city anything,” Mayor Delbert Crewse stated.

“We’re not regulated by the state. We don’t use right of ways for anything,” the representative indicated.

“I think this comes down to were we could keep propane new customers out and we’d be drawing money from natural gas franchise fee,” the mayor said.

The Board approved a motion to have the change available for consideration at the next Council meeting.

City Attorney Josh Brown explained that the propane industry attorney indicated this was the first time they saw something like this in the state. He went on to say that the propane industry viewed this as a statewide precident setting issue so they were prepared to spend money as though they were litigating it as a case that would apply on a statewide basis.

“That made sense to them, whereas it doesn’t seem to really make sense for the city to be spending that kind of money on litigation on something like this,” Brown stated.

Alderman Sherri Unger again asked for a figure on the percentage of people on propane in the city.