McALESTER — The McAlester city council has taken a step toward calling another election for a bond question related to city street construction and repairs — but figures on taking a vote on the matter a little farther down the road.
Allan Brooks, of the OK Public Finance Law Group, which advises the city on bond-related matters, met with city councilors during their regular Tuesday night meeting in the council chambers at City Hall.
Brooks offered the council his input regarding the possible election. McAlester voters passed one part of a sales tax regarding a bond refinancing proposition during last November’s General Election, but didn’t pass the second part.
Proposition One, which the voters passed, allowed the city to refinance the McAlester Public Works Authority’s 1999A Revenue Bonds. Proposition Two, the one voters rejected, would have given the city authority to levy a one-cent sales tax to supersede a current tax.
Prior to the November election, both McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak and McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison said passing the second measure would not have resulted in any additional taxes. It would have allowed the city to re-purpose the funds and apply up to $12.5 million to road and street projects in the city, Stasiak said Friday.
During the Tuesday night meeting, Brooks said he hoped the new proposed ballot language would make the issue clear. “We were tasked with saying this the cleanest way possible,” he said. “This is not a new sales tax.
This does not increase or extend the term of a sales tax, but it does modify the service,” Brooks said. Ward 6 Councilor Weldon Smith offered his thoughts on why Proposition Two failed in November and noted the way the measure was written on the ballot.
“The last time people were concerned it didn’t specifically say ‘for street repairs,’” Smith said. The language Brooks proposed for a new ballot for the expected upcoming election doesn’t mention street construction and repairs either.
The measure states it “does modify the purpose of an existing 1 percent sales tax currently being levied by the city, to allow the tax to be used to pay debt service on obligations heretofore or hereafter approved by voters of the city,” all to be set out more specifically in a city ordinance.
Smith again expressed his concern about leaving the street construction information off the ballot if the city tries again to get the measure passed. “Some people may think we’re trying to pull a fast one,” Smith said. Brooks indicated he didn’t think it a good idea to include the specific street repairs provision on the ballot.
Mayor Harrison said the money could only be used for debt approved by the voters. Brooks said “I can tack a lot of stuff one this” — a reference to the ballot language — but said he’s concerned it could make the situation worse. Brooks also referred to Smith’s concerns that voters may think the city’s trying to “pull a fast one” if they’re asked to approve a proposition they are told is for street construction and repairs if the ballot language does not include it. Brooks suggested the voters might take the city officials’ word for it.
“We would like to think you’re building up some trust,” he said. Harrison then indicated that he expects fewer voters to cast ballots on the measure the second time around — which means fewer voters would have to be convinced to vote in favor of the measure.
“The last time it was a general election,” Harrison said. “This time, if we call it, it will be the only question on the ballot.” City officials were prohibited by law from trying the measure again until six months after the last election regarding the issue was held in November.
If another election is called on the matter, the expected date is May 14. McAlester resident Vicki Brown asked if the list of streets slated for work through the project would remain the same as the last time. Harrison indicted there could be some changes. “We’re going to give you the best information we’ve got,” he said.
Although Ward 6 Councilor Sam Mason indicated he was ready to vote on the matter Tuesday night, the council took no action. The matter is expected to come up for a vote during a future council meeting.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.