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Council to decide on CIP, budget

The City Council is set to make its make its final decisions on next year's budget and a new Capital Improvements Program, and residents will have their chance to provide input on city expenditures.

Tuesday is expected to be the final decision on the new CIP because Wednesday is the deadline if city officials want to include the proposal for a seventh-eighths percent sales tax on the Aug. 26 ballot. Council members have discussed and changed the exact composition of the project list several times in recent weeks, deciding during a special session two weeks ago that they unanimously supported the idea of an 11-year sales tax that will combine two expiring taxes to create one tax that is expected to generate $100.9 million over its life.

The new seventh-eighths percent tax would replace the one-half percent sales tax, now dedicated to Lawton Public Schools, that will expire Dec. 31, and the three-eighths percent sales tax, now funding the 2008 CIP, which will expire June 30, 2015 (the final six months of that tax would be suspended if voters approve the new tax).

Voter approval would allow the new tax to begin Jan. 1, 2015, which council members said would give the city and school system a funding source for crucial needs without increasing the city's total sales tax (now 8.875 percent).

Council members who helped create the project list that was first considered by the full council a month ago said that projects were carefully crafted to address what city leaders see as Lawton's most fundamental needs, with the bulk of that tax revenue going to public safety and education.

Lawton Public Schools is slated to receive $12.5 million in the first five years of the tax, to match with the $29.5 million ad valorem issues city voters passed in April to address district needs. The ordinance that would control expenditures in the 2015 CIP restrict the district funding to building construction and renovations/remodeling, and the purchase of school vehicles and other capital equipment. It specifies window and entry upgrades for schools, playground equipment, fencing, remote entry systems, maintenance, district vehicles, building renovations/repairs, and paving (to include sidewalks).

The Lawton Constitution

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