3/28/2013 12:17:00 AM Public Safety Sales Tax Vote Tuesday
Perkins Police Chief Bob Ernst, left, Perkins Fire Chief Joe Barta, middle, and Perkins Emergency Management Director Travis Majors stand in front of a Perkins police vehicle that is awaiting repairs. The trio is supporting a sales tax vote on April 2 to fund capital improvement projects for the city’s police, fire and emergency management departments.
By Van Mitchell
Perkins voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, April 2 to vote on a new sales tax proposal to fund capital improvements for the city's police, fire and emergency management departments.
Voters will decide whether to approve a half-cent sales tax which would run for seven years before dropping 1/8th of a cent to 3/8ths for the remainder of the sales tax life. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
If approved Perkins sales tax rate would rise from 8.25 percent to 8.75 percent which would equal the sales tax rate in Stillwater. In comparison, Glencoe's sales tax rate is 9.25 percent, Cushing is at nine percent, Ripley is 8.25 percent, Tryon is 9.5 percent, Drumright is 10 percent and Guthrie is 8.5 percent.
"If it goes through it will bring Perkins sales tax rate equal to that of Stillwater for seven years and then it will drop," said Perkins Police Chief Bob Ernst. "None of this money is going to salaries or anything like that. We are growing. Fire calls and police calls are up dramatically. With growth come growing pains and a need to expand. Perkins is moving forward and we have to move forward with it." Census figures from 2010 show that Perkins population has grown almost 25 percent between 1980 and 2010 going from 1,762 residents to over 2,831.
According to Oklahoma Tax Commission statistics, Perkins has not had a sales tax increase in 29 years. OTC statistics show that by taking the half-cent sales tax and averaging Perkins sales tax revenues for September, October and November 2012 the halfcent tax would generate approximately $131,968 per year and the 3/8th sales tax would generate $98,976 per year.
"It (sales tax money) will be split through three departments the police, fire and emergency management so we can buy much needed equipment," Ernst said. "That split will be decided between the city manager and the city council."
Ernst said if approved the sales tax revenue would help the police department pursue several capital projects including adding in-car camera systems for all patrol vehicles, reporting software for the police department, computers for patrol cars, replacement of the K9 dog named "Atilla" within 1-2 years, entry-type bullet resistant vests, patrol rifles, crime scene supplies, fleet management program and dispatch equipment.
Joe Barta, who serves as Perkins fi re chief, said the fire department capital improvement projects include replacement for oldest firefighting apparatus over 25 years old. The estimated cost for each item would be $225,000 and up.
Barta said they would also like to begin plans for remodeling the Perkins Main Street fire station which will be 30 years old in 2015 and ensure SCBU meets the latest standards with estimated cost between $100,000 and $125,000.
Travis Majors serves as the emergency management director for the City of Perkins. He said the emergency management capital projects include an entire outdoor warning system upgrade with battery back-up system and radio controlled activation. He said the estimate cost is $150,000.
Majors added other capital projects include adding a new Type I mobile command unit, restore Type II mobile command post and hardening and remodeling the emergency operations center or possibly looking to relocate to a safer location. Currently, the emergency operations center is located adjacent to the Perkins water tower.
Majors said they would also look at retrofitting or adding sheltering for municipal buildings to provide for municipal employees and continuity of business; create a community- wide risk analysis and public safety data collection program and providing an early warning notification system to activate emergency action plans for all school campuses including outdoor sports venues, municipal buildings, public parks and assisted living facility.
"One of my biggest projects is updating the outdoor warning sirens," Majors said. "Of the six we have five of them are 100 percent dependent on electricity which is generally one the first things that goes out during a storm. They were all manufactured around the 1950s or 1960s. Those generally run about $20,000 to $30,000 each. We would like to be able to budget and purchase one a year and basically update our entire system."
Ernst said he was recently able to lease-purchase four new vehicles for his department but adds between those lease costs and repairs for the rest of his patrol fleet is stretching an already thin budget even thinner.
He said the sales tax revenue would help ease some of his budget crunch and allow for some much needed patrol car help.
"We just lease-purchased four new vehicles and we are very grateful to get those four vehicles," Ernst said. "But there is still a very distinct need for more vehicles. We are not going to try and do everything in one day. Our repair costs are going nuts. It's just a continuous thing."
Ernst said he remains optimistic that the residents of Perkins will see the need for the new sales tax and benefits that can come from it.
"I think people in Perkins know now is the time," Ernst said. "It's a progressive town. Our community leaders are forward thinkers. We have to have the tools to do the job."