In October, residents will begin to pay an added sales tax in the community, but for the community.

In October, residents will begin to pay an added sales tax in the community, but for the community.

In June the decision to pass the city sales tax increase — known as Proposition 4 — was very close; all evening the tallies teetered back and forth between yes and no. By the end of the night though, area residents squeezed the self-imposed tax through at 3,270 (50.31 percent) votes to 3,230 (49.69 percent) — securing just 40 more votes than the opposition, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board, at ok.gov/elections.

The City of Shawnee asked residents to back the sales tax increase to propel the community toward completion of several capital improvement projects that have been on the wish list for a long time — some for decades.

Now passed, Proposition 4 will temporarily increase city sales tax by one-half of one percent for 10 years. The revenue will specifically be allocated as such: Public safety — 0.125 percent; Streets and roads — 0.125 percent; and parks and public facilities — 0.25 percent. The excise tax will be levied beginning Oct. 1 and is set to end after Sept. 30, 2028.

Over those 10 years, it is estimated approximately $30 million will be generated. City Commissioners adopted a list of capital improvements, which includes major upgrades to parks, the remodel of two fire stations, a new police department headquarters building, Expo enhancements, major street improvements, more sidewalks and trails, as well as renovations to the Senior Center, library, Community Center and Santa Fe Depot.

In response to the passage of the sales tax, Shawnee City Manager Justin Erickson said he is thankful to the community for its trust and support.

“City staff works hard every day to meet the needs of the public, and thanks to the vote, we can continue our efforts to enhance the quality of life for all citizens,” he said.

Erickson commended the leadership of Mayor Richard Finley and Shawnee's City Commissioners, who went through a very deliberate process to evaluate city needs, draft the proposition and send it to voters.

He also singled out the Avedis Foundation and its influence over the community.

“They have done so much to improve the quality of life in Pottawatomie County, and their vision and efforts set the stage for this endeavor by allowing the community to dream and imagine a better future,” he said.

Ward 1 City Commissioner Ed Bolt said he thinks it’s very exciting that the voters in Shawnee approved the tax.

“This will allow us to do some things that really need to be done,” he said. “Improvements to our roads, fire stations, the police station, the Expo, a new roof at the senior center and improvements at other city facilities are all very much needed.”

Another area that will see many improvements is the city's parks system.

“I love that we can now make some upgrades to our key city parks around town,” Bolt said. “That will make them all a much bigger draw for the community and visitors; these parks will become something that we can all be proud of.”

Bolt said he was very glad that the tax is very well defined as to what the money can be used for and how long the increase is in effect.

It cannot be extended without a vote of the people, which is also a good thing, he said.

“We have had really nice things happen in Shawnee over the last five years or so,” Bolt said.

He said the tax will go a long way in helping the city keep that momentum going and take the community to the next level.

“I truly believe the next 10 years is going to bring an amazing change to our community and the ability to pay for needed upgrades will play a big part in our progress,” he said.

City departments will reap some of the benefits the tax will pay for.

Shawnee Police Chief Mason Wilson said it is very exciting for the police department.

“We are so grateful to the citizens of our community,” he said. “Our goal is to have a new facility the citizens and the officers can be proud of.”

He said the police department is hoping to become more centrally located to allow more efficient responses to any area of the city.

“The officers are currently sharing many spaces and waiting in line to get many of their tasks completed,” Wilson said. “The extra space provided by a new facility will allow officers to be more productive.”

Wilson said when officers can complete their tasks more efficiently, they have time to be proactive.

“Proactive public safety creates a safer community,” he said. “The public safety portion of the sales tax will allow us to also replace aging vehicles.”

He said the department currently has 27 Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles.

“Ford stopped making these vehicles in 2011,” Wilson said. “So the newest of these vehicles would be over seven years old.”

He said he doesn't want to see money wasted trying to keep the older vehicles on the street.

“We want to reduce maintenance costs and have reliable transportation for emergency responses,” he said.

Wilson said the passage of the sales tax displays the pride the citizens have in Shawnee.

“As a police department we want the citizens to be proud of the services and safety we can provide to them,” he said. “These added tools just increase our ability to be successful in that mission.”

The Shawnee Fire Department also is in line for project funds.

Shawnee Fire Chief Dru Tischer said he, too, is grateful to Shawnee residents for their investment and support by passing the sales tax increase.

For the fire department facilities, the sales tax increase provides funding to allow expansion and renovation of Fire Stations No. 1, downtown, and No. 3 on MacArthur.

“Both of these buildings are over 45 years old now and require updating to allow us to continue meeting our mission,” Tischer said. “We’ve had the buildings evaluated and they are both in great shape structurally and in great locations for emergency response.”

The sales tax increase provides funding for expansion and updating of the buildings.

“That wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” he said.

In addition, the increase provides funding for purchase of the department's next structural firefighting apparatus.

“This type of proactive planning is huge for us as it allows us for the first time to schedule retirement of an aging pumper as it ends the end of its functional service life in the next few years,” he said. “We’re incredibly grateful to the citizens of Shawnee for providing this funding that allows us to ensure we maintain safe and dependable facilities and apparatus.”

Watch for updates as the funds become available and projects are completed.