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Taxes OK'd for streets

City voters have agreed to a City of Lawton plan to fund a street repair program through ad valorem taxes.

Voters agreed by an 11 percent margin to the proposal to keep the city's share of ad valorem revenues at 10.5 mills annually for the next 13 years, which is expected to generate $55.3 million to tackle repair and replacement of arterials and residential streets. The proposition won 1,129 "yes" votes, or 55.4 percent of the total cast, to 909 "no" votes, or 44.6 percent cast. In all 2,038 residents voted Tuesday.

City Manager Jerry Ihler said he was pleased Lawton residents accepted the proposal.

"It's time for us to get to work," he said, explaining he and city administrators plan to meet with Lawton's bond counsel and financial advisers next week to put the information together that will allow the City of Lawton to sell the first of its bond series.

The streets program calls for the city to issue bonds each year for the next 13 years, beginning this year with a $3 million bond issue. In coming years, the amount of those bonds will be staggered to keep the city's millage rate at no more than 10.56 mills annually, with the city using its share of ad valorem revenue to pay the bond debt. Annual totals are expected to range from $11.025 million 2027 and $10.5 million in 2018, to $1.4 million in 2021 and $1.6 million in 2024. All but the first year will have a 10-year maturity date; the 2017 issue will have a two-year maturity rate.

Ihler said the city staff's objective is to get the first year bonds issued by the end of June, meaning that work on the first of the projects would begin before year's end. This year's $3 million will fund initial designs on projects that will be funded with next year's $10.5 million bond issue, but Ihler said the city also has some projects already on the shelf  meaning, designs are done  that could be built this year.

The staff's task in coming weeks will be setting the bond program in place and working with consultants to design projects, and each of those steps will be brought back to the City Council for approval. Ihler said his intent is a program so successful, voters will want to continue using this funding mechanism. City officials have said the program is not an increase in the city's ad valorem taxes, but an effort to keep the city's share of ad valorem taxes at its historic average.

The Lawton Constitution

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