Another round of special elections is happening this week. In Midwest City, voters will approve or reject a three-quarter cent sales tax increase, which would give the city the highest sales tax rate in the metro area.
Many of the people who shop in Midwest City live elsewhere, whether they are coming from a smaller community, work at Tinker Air Force Base or are just passing through on the highway. Everyone benefits from public safety services, however, and that is the area that could use some help.
Midwest City boasts a four-minute response time for emergency calls anywhere inside city limits, but city manager Guy Henson says the police and fire departments are straining to keep up with demand.
“We’re really at staffing levels pre-2000,” Henson says, "and yet calls have continued to escalate."
The proposed sales tax would bolster the city’s reserve fund and boost the budget for the streets, parks and animal control departments. It would also fund the hiring of three new firefighters and six new police officers over the next three years, who Henson says are desperately needed in the evenings.
“What we find now is that our officers are so busy responding to calls during that period of time that they have no proactive policing time,” says Henson.
A three-quarter cent sales tax is projected to raise $6.4 million for the city annually, and Henson says it was a better option than levying the tax solely upon homeowners. This way, anyone who spends money in the city will contribute.
The extra tax would give Midwest City the highest sales tax rate in the metro area, but administrators are hoping to see the same outcome as the sales tax initiative approved by Oklahoma City voters earlier this year.
Henson says, “They put a lot of resources into it and it didn’t win by an overwhelming margin, so we know there’s a resistance to any increases in taxes.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Oct. 10.