The Miami City Council held a special meeting Monday night at the council chambers in the Civic Center to hold a public meeting for discussion of a possible city vote on a sales tax increase to fund road repair. In the end a motion put forth by councilman Scott Trussler for the council to call for an election to increase the city sales tax by one percent to fund a comprehensive road project died without a second.
On the advice of councilman Terry Atkinson the group resolved to bring the sales tax issue forward to the public at the March 7 Customer Appreciation Breakfast at the Civic Center.
If the council resolves to call for an election the vote would take place 60 days from the date of their vote. After surveying the feedback from the Customer Appreciation Breakfast the council could vote to hold the election and have it on the ballot by July 9.
Four councilpersons offered an anecdotal telling of how their particular constituency felt about an election to determine a sales tax increase to fund road projects.
Councilman Trussler reported that the feedback he had received was fully in support of a vote for a one-cent sales tax increase for the project.
Councilman Rudy Schultz had found that most people he discussed the issue with were more in line with a vote for a .65 percent increase for the road repair.
Councilman Atkinson had yet to find any support for a sales tax increase- especially among local business owners.
Mayor Brent Brassfield said that he had only come across two people who were opposed to a sales tax increase election to fund road repairs.
Currently the Miami sales tax rate is 8.85 percent. Of that, three percent goes to the city, while the state takes four and half percent. The remaining 1.35 percent is funneled to the county.
Rick Smith, a representative of the Municipal Finance Services firm in Edmond, presented a report to the council that, among other things, spelled out how much money a one-cent tax increase would generate over a 15-year period. That number was conservatively estimated at $20 million.
Three citizens addressed the council and one couple sent a message via a letter, as they were unable to attend the meeting.
Of that group one was in favor of a sales tax increase, one was not, and two were indeterminate in their statements.
The council addressed several questions from the speakers. Chief among them was the question of which roads would be serviced first and which roads would be repaired if the proposal was passed by the electorate.
Mayor Brassfield reported that two years ago a firm from Idaho called I-Works, which specializes in road repair analysis, made a survey of the city and advised which roads should receive first attention. Their conclusions were that roads that “still had life” should be the first to receive maintenance, as roads that were considered “dead” would require more intrusive work, and cost. In any event the council went to lengths to assure all assembled that road repairs would not be completed based on any type of favoritism as to whoever happened to live on a particular section.
The council also shed some light on how the recent economic stimulus bill passed in Washington, D.C. might help with road repair in the city. The short answer there was: none.
The council expressed, repeatedly, that they understood how asking for a tax increase in the current economic climate was more than likely not a very popular idea but that the need for road repair in the city was a vital issue.
Sales tax figures for the city show an increase of 5.42% for the fiscal year as compared to this point a year ago.
Currently the city has approximately $150,000 in a Street and Alley fund for building and maintaining roads. Estimates from city engineers are that it may cost up to $12,000 to properly build a one-block section of road.
Among those citizens who spoke at the meeting one gave high praise to the city street crew. The citizen stated that every time he had called to report large chug-holes in city roads that crews responded and filled them quickly.