CHICKASHA, Okla. – June 30, 2023 – Chickasha officials will host four town hall meetings to allow citizens to ask questions and receive information about the upcoming vote to approve a permanent 1.25% sales tax. The vote is scheduled for August 8, 2023.
The first meeting will be held on Monday, July 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 117 N. 4th Street. The Council Chambers are on the second floor of the building.
The second Town Hall will be on Thursday, July 27 from 6 to 8 p.m., also in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
The third Town Hall opportunity will be held on Saturday, July 29 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Chickasha Public Library, located at 527 W. Iowa.
The final Town Hall will be virtual, held on Tuesday, August 1 from Noon to 1 p.m. on Zoom. To join the Zoom meeting, go to chickasha.org/townhall. You can also use Meeting ID 865 7194 1317 and passcode 73018, or dial in to the meeting at 1-720-707-2699. You will need to log in with a free Zoom account.
Chickasha’s water treatment facility, which is the City’s sole source of drinking water for the City, was built in the 1950s. It is operating past its useful life and is at-risk of catastrophic failure, which would leave the City unable to provide water services to its citizens. The facility is also currently operating under consent orders from the DEQ to make repairs to address these problems.
To address this, City Council voted on Thursday, May 18 to call for a vote of citizens to approve a permanent 1.25% sales tax, which would go into effect on January 1, 2024. The City’s current .75% Capital Improvement Project sales tax is set to expire on December 31, 2023, so passage of the 1.25% sales tax will result in a net increase of .5%.
The sales tax is estimated to generate approximately $4.67 million in revenue each year, which will be used to build a new water treatment facility and fund other capital projects. The new water treatment facility is estimated to cost approximately $74 million, including engineering, purchasing land, and construction. The City is financing this project using an approximate $69 million 30-year loan from the Oklahoma Water Resource Board, plus $5 million in available existing capital outlay funds. Each year, the City will use approximately $3 million of the sales tax revenue to pay the annual debt payments on this loan. The project is estimated to take about 3 years to complete.
“It is a tough position, I can't explain why it wasn't addressed in 2015 when it was first estimated, but I do know we are required to make material changes to our plant for water treatment and increase the production due to increased demand,” said Mayor Chris Mosley. “A new plant to replace an aging one is the best option for generations to come. I don't like taxes but I believe in investing for the future and those that will come after me.”
For the remaining $1.6 million generated annually by the sales tax, City officials have identified several capital projects, including improvements to existing public safety facilities and making much-needed road, water line and sewer repairs. Officials plan to share a more detailed list of planned projects, along with anticipated costs, during the town hall meetings.
If the sales tax fails, City Council members voted to automatically raise water rates on October 1, 2023 to pay off the OWRB loan. The rate increase will be approximately 82%, with an average water bill going from $34 per month to $61.87 per month. These increased rates would not allow additional funding for other capital expenditures, including road repairs or fire and police facility and equipment improvements.
The water rate increase will not take effect if the sales tax is passed.