The polls open at 7 a.m. today for residents who will decide the fate of a proposal to create a 2020 Capital Improvements Program for the City of Lawton.

Polls across the city will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If approved by voters, the proposal would end the 2015 Sales Tax Extension and the 2016 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) five years early, replacing them with what would be designated as the 2020 CIP. That program would extend the existing 2.125 percent sales tax — the value of the taxes supporting the 2015 and 2016 programs — through Dec. 31, 2034.

Funding provided by extending that tax would complete projects in the 2015 and 2016 programs while providing additional revenue for a new list of projects, said Mayor Stan Booker, one of the proposal’s strongest proponents. He and City Manager Michael Cleghorn said the proposal will have no effect on Lawton’s sales tax rate; the rate would remain the same.

Additional funding in the $144 million program comes from the fact the existing tax would be extended through 2034, rather than ending in 2025.

If approved by voters, the 2015 and 2016 programs would officially end March 31, while the 2020 program would begin April 1 (meaning, no lapse in the total 9 percent sales tax now charged on goods and services purchased in Lawton). Without voter approval, the 2015 and 2016 programs would remain as they are.

The ballot is plain in its request: end the two existing sales tax programs and replace them with the new program. The total tax would remain at 2.125 percent, although one-half percent would be designated as “indefinite,” meaning it will not expire when the remaining tax does.

The ballot proposition also references Lawton Ordinance 19-30, which the council set into place to define the program and its project categories, as well as the categories still being funded in the 2015 and 2016 programs.

The new portion of the program sets nine project categories: water and sewer system improvements, including construction of a $17 million plant to treat water taken from wells; street/sidewalk improvements and maintenance; improvements to city buildings/facilities, to include Lawton City Hall, McMahon Memorial Auditorium and Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport terminal; parks and recreational facilities, to include up to $8 million for an indoor youth sports complex and $250,000 for arts and humanities programs; youth programs to stem crime; infrastructure and projects to further industrial development; information technology upgrades; and beautification improvements, to include a bulk trash pickup program and expansion of the city’s dilapidated structure removal program.

It also includes an annual allocation of $250,000 to the city’s emergency fund throughout the course of the 2020 CIP. And, the ordinance specifies the “indefinite” one-half percent tax will be dedicated to three specific categories: the emergency fund; water/sewer system improvements; and up to $2.684 million annually for new police and fire personnel, and equipment.

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