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Tax talks to be opened to public

City Council members offered their opinions on a new Capital Improvements Program Tuesday, then said they would open discussions to the general public during a special meeting next week.

Council members were asked to look at a new CIP that, if approved by voters, would be financed by extending two existing sales tax programs: a one-half cent sales tax that now funds improvements for Lawton Public Schools and will expire Dec. 31; and a three-eighths cent sales tax, dubbed the 2008 CIP, which is funding city infrastructure upgrades and which will expire June 30, 2015. The proposal offered by three council members, who said they have been meeting with entities behind the scenes, crafts a program that provides a broad-based series of projects that will benefit a wide section of the community, including Lawton Public Schools and Cameron University.

Council members didn't make any decisions Tuesday, beyond agreeing with Mayor Fred Fitch's proposal to set a special meeting where residents would be invited to offer comments and provide input on the project list. That meeting was announced for 6 p.m. Wednesday, after council members turned down an idea to meet May 21 because of conflicting activities that night.

Fitch said that part of the reason for the discussion is an alternate proposal offered by City Manager Bryan Long, one that would add $24 million in public safety projects (to include personnel and equipment for police and fire), and a proposal to shift $37.775 million from the council-drafted list of sales tax projects to ad valorem taxes.

That proposal didn't set well with several council members, who questioned where the new proposal originated.

The Lawton Constitution

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