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July 27, 2013

TEA Party says tax election is all wet

CHICKASHA — A Sept. 10 election, that will decide whether a 3/4 percent sales tax allocated for capital improvement projects will continue, is being met with animosity by members of The Grady County Tea Party.

The tax is a renewal that is expected to generate $24 million in revenue over the next 10 years, appropriated specifically for improving water, sewage and roads. TEA Party representative Mark Keeling said he's seen this promise go unfulfilled in the past.

"When this was renewed in 2001, $10 million of the $17 million made from it went to build the ballpark (Chickasha sports complex)," he said. "As time goes on it seems more capital improvement money goes toward park and recreation."

At the moment, there is nothing written into the proposition that would break down how the money would be used over the next 10 years in a percentile form, which is a key problem for Keeling.

"Right now 99 percent of it could go to water, or 99 percent of it could go to streets," Keeling said. " We want all 100 percent earmarked for water."

Until such earmarks are put in place, Keeling said the TEA Party will oppose the continuation of the tax.

Ross said putting such restrictions on the money's usage would make it very difficult to deal with unforeseen infrastructure problems that arise over the next decade.

"We can't do percentages right now," he said. "We have to have some flexibility. I know they want us to put a percentage breakdown on the money, but I just don't think it's smart."

Although Ross, was not mayor when the decision to use some of CIP tax money to build the sport complex was made, Keeling said the mayor still needs to be pressured, so the money is used for the best interests of the city.

"I'm not blaming him for what other people have done," Keeling said. "My opinion is Hank's (Ross) vision is to use the money for more face lifts."

Keeling said the $3 million gained from mineral leases around Lake Chickasha earlier this year could be used to combat street infrastructure problems.

Ross said he worries about the future of Chickasha's infrastructure should the tax fail to pass.

"It comes down to this. Our capital projects would have to come to a stop," he said. "If it doesn't pass, I'm not sure how we will do anything for infrastructure."

Keeling said, should the proposition fail, he hopes the city council will take a lesson from the vote.

"Hopefully they will listen to us and take our answers to these problems to heart," he said.

The TEA Party will host a meeting Aug. 2 at the Canadian Valley Technology Center at 6:30 p.m. where Ross, Keeling and City Manager Stuart Fairburn will speak on the tax and the issue of water in Chickasha.

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