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Lawton tech center proposes tax increase

Great Plains Technology Center's board of education voted Thursday to ask its patrons for a 1-mil increase in the education facility's building fund levy.

The vote, to be scheduled April 3, could take Great Plains Technology Center's building fund levy to 5 mils, the maximum amount allowed under state law. Great Plains' building fund levy, supported by property taxes, has been at 4 mils for years.

Great Plains Superintendent Clarence Fortney said the proposed increase reflects the needs of the education facility, as identified by those who teach students on the Lawton and Frederick campuses. Officials said it also reflects problems that have arisen as Oklahoma's educational entities continue to lose ground because of statewide budget cuts. Great Plains has lost $1.7 million in state funding in the last decade and will lose another $140,000 this fiscal year, said Glen Boyer, director of marketing and communication for Great Plains.

The proposal to increase the mil levy will be submitted to voters in Great Plains Technology Center's service area, meaning voters in Comanche and Tillman counties, as well as those in the Big Pasture and Snyder school districts. If approved, the mil levy increase would apply only to property owners in those areas.

Fortney said the 1 mil increase would raise an additional $790,000 annually for Great Plains, and those funds would be earmarked for the facility's building fund and projects legally allowable there (that funding source also pays the salaries of Great Plains' information technology and maintenance staff). Under state law, educational entities are allowed up to 5 mils for a building fund levy and another 10 mils for operations and maintenance.

If voters approve the increase in April, the decision would take Great Plains to a total of 15 mils, the maximum annual allocation under state law. Of the 29 technology centers in Oklahoma, only 10 are at their maximum mil capacity. The remainder (which now includes Great Plains) are at 14 mils or less.

Fortney said the mil levy is necessary because of one simple fact: Great Plains had needs that can't be met with its existing budget.

He said the facility has a long-range master plan which identifies the needs at its Lawton and Frederick campuses, with projects set in each budget year. But, discussions with Great Plains' educational staff revealed expenditures that are necessary if the facility is to keep pace with the educational needs of its high school and adult students, Fortney said. Staff members discussed those projects in focus groups and the resulting project list was added to projects already identified in the Great Plains' capital improvement plan.

The Lawton Constitution

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