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Police, fire personnel in Duncan talk tax

DUNCAN  Members and supporters of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce heard some evidence presented by the Duncan Police Department to convince them to favor a penny sales tax dedicated to public safety in their community.

A proposal to add a penny to the city's sales tax rate will be either approved or turned down by voters in an election scheduled for Tuesday. If it's approved, shoppers would begin paying 9.7 cents in tax on each dollar they spend in the Duncan community.

According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the combined sales tax rate for Duncan currently is 8.7 percent, representing 4.5 cents collected by the state on each dollar spent, 3.5 cents currently collected by the town and seven-tenths of a cent collected by Stephens County.

Adding a penny to the rate would be expected to increase Duncan's sales tax revenue by about $3.5 million a year. That money would be dedicated to the Duncan police and fire departments, City Manager Kim Meek said. It would be used for hiring additional officers and firefighters, beefing up wages and benefits, building and/or maintaining facilities and/or investing in equipment.

Master Officer Ryan Atkinson presented the case for the tax during a recent breakfast gathering of members and supporters of the Duncan Chamber at the Simmons Center. He said the Public Safety Tax would help Duncan to catch up to other communities of similar size in investing in police protection. Currently, the police department is smaller than many believe it should be, and the tax would allow for the hiring of three additional officers. He said it also would allow the city to provide better benefits for officers, pay for more training and invest in equipment. The state used to provide more support for training and equipment for police, he noted, but that's been cut along with state budgets for just about everything.

"It costs us more now to send officers to get them certified," he said. "Also, the state used to provide free (refresher and supplemental) training, but that training is hard to find any more."

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