A half-cent sales tax initiative was passed Tuesday night by Tahlequah voters, 423-117.

The question got approval of 78.33 percent of voters, while 21.67 percent voted against it.

Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron said with the vote in favor, the focus in the short term is to complete the 2013 bond projects.

“I am so pleased that Tahlequah residents have provided funding for our future street and sidewalk needs,” she said. “A reliable and consistent source of money dedicated to our streets and sidewalks will allow us to set our priorities and plan our projects, ensuring that progress is always underway. As one project wraps up, we can be set and ready to start the next.”

Currently, the sales tax is at 9.5 percent. A half-cent tax already in place will end Sept. 30. Since the new sales tax was approved by the voters, the rate of 9.5 percent will resume on Jan. 1, 2020, and continue through Dec. 31, 2025.

Ward 3 City Councilor Stephen Highers said passage of the measure means great progress for the city of Tahlequah.

“I’m thankful to the residents of Tahlequah for the commitment to a better future,” he said. “This tax money is going to make great progress over the next few years to make sure our roads get repaired and our sidewalks get built. Thank you!”

Although some residents suggested Tahlequah's sales tax is too high when combined with state and county levies, a quick survey of nearby towns indicates otherwise. Sallisaw's tax is 9.9 percent, Wagoner's is 9.8 percent, Hulbert's is 10.25 and Locust Grove's is 10.38 percent. Muskogee's sales tax total is slightly lower, at 9.15 percent, and Tulsa's is 8.5 percent. Larger cities tend to have lower sales taxes because they can pull from a greater variety of funding sources and have larger populations who pay the taxes.

In another election Tuesday night, a $2.75 million bond passed for the Keys Public Schools District.

The bond money will fund necessary updates and improvements. At the elementary school, funds will be used to increase the size of the dining hall, including a new entryway for parents to drop off and pick up their children. Corridors will be added between the buildings to improve safety and security.

At the high school, the money will pay for an auxiliary gym and an agricultural science building. The auxiliary gym will include a new entry to eliminate the need to transport students back and forth to the elementary gym, and allow more students opportunities to practice.

The Keys vote was passed with 78.23 percent in favor, and 21.77 percent opposed.

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