If Enid City Commission authorizes an election Tuesday night, voters will consider a sales tax increase in August to fund the Kaw Lake water pipeline project.

Initially, if approved by voters, sales tax will increase 3/4 percent in January 2017.

There's a 1/4 percent sales tax currently in effect for capital improvements, specifically streets and schools, City Manager Jerald Gilbert said. It will fall off in March 2018, and the commission also will be asking voters in August for a new 1/4 percent tax to follow for the Kaw Lake project, bringing the total sales tax rate for the project to 1 percent starting in 2018.

The sales tax for the project would be in effect until 2052, he said.

"One reason why the timing is right now is that we're getting ready to start on the next phase of design, which means we're going to have to spend a significant amount of money to get the project designed," Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen said. "We actually want to start that this fall, so it's time to decide how we're going to pay for the whole thing."

He said city officials have been studying Enid's water situation for a "long time."

"We started looking at $451 million, now we're looking at about $360 million," Mayor Bill Shewey said about the project cost. "During the last three years, it's been determined, through a lot of study, that the Kaw Lake pipeline project was the best long-term source for water."

Janzen said the city has a certain number of revenue streams it can access to fund projects.

"This is one of the few that's available to us, and it has the big advantage of even some people outside of Enid are going to help finance this project. We have a lot of people that come here and shop that will be paying this tax," he said.

Gilbert said 40 to 45 percent of dollars spent in Enid come from outside of town.

"That's another reason why the sales tax, we believe, is the best route to help finance this," he said.

Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm said it's the best guarantee Enid will have for water.

"We know that there is water there, and always will be," he said.

Timm said there will be a resolution to adopt an oversight committee to watch how the funds are spent.

"We want to be transparent and up front in all of this because there's no reason not to be. We'll tell you the good, we'll tell you the bad. We want to be transparent. That's why we thought it would be nice to have this oversight committee," he said.

Gilbert said the funds are needed to move forward with more engineering on the project, and city officials need to know residents support the project.

"We've looked at other revenue sources. I don't think anybody wants us to try to finance this on just the water bills alone," Janzen said.

Timm noted Enid currently has a fairly low sales tax rate.

"So, we're really going to be even still lower than some, even with this increase," he said.

Other items on the meeting agenda will include:

• A public hearing and possible action to rezone property at 5810 W. Garriott from Agriculture to Planned Business Center District for the development of truck parking for Atwoods Distributing.

• Consideration of a resolution supporting Excel Development Group obtaining financing through the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency to develop a 36-unit multi-family housing development in the 700 block of East Oklahoma.

• Holding of an executive session to discuss purchasing property and matters related to economic development.

The public meeting, at 6:30 p.m., will be held in commission chambers at the city administration building, 401 W. Garriott.

It will follow a 5 p.m. public study session in the lower level conference room at the city administration building.

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Miller is city reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. She can be reached at jmiller@enidnews.com.


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