Bacon Restaurant on N. May was especially festive for a Tuesday night. Owners Cathy and Sean Cummings were hosting a watch party for a historic vote.
Voters in The Village approved a permanent sales tax increase and two general obligation bond propositions Tuesday by large margins.
Four of the five city council members and other civic activists ended the evening celebrating a win for the 9,000 people who live in the small three-square-mile city near Lake Hefner in the north metro.
With all five of the precincts reporting, Oklahoma Election Board results showed the three propositions passing by large margins.
City leaders say the vote will send a positive message to businesses thinking about locating in The Village.
The first two propositions were for the city to borrow $10.4 million through general obligation bonds and the third for a permanent half-cent sales tax increase limited to being spent on capital improvements like police and fire vehicles.
The GO bonds will be paid for with increases in city property taxes, which will still remain lower than the City of Oklahoma City which shares city limits with The Village on three sides.
Almost 700 voters turned out, a large number for The Village in an isolated election where no larger state or national interests were being decided.
Voting broke down like this:
- Proposition 1 for streets: 88.42 percent for, 11.58 percent against.
- Proposition 2 for parks and recreation: 83.04 percent for, 16.96 against.
- Proposition 3 for permanent half-cent sales tax increase: 79.54 percent for, 20.46 percent against.
Happy council members
Four of the five city council members organized and knocked doors in their respective wards Saturday and Sunday to promote the three propositions and answer questions.
They talked to Free Press at the party after seeing results of the vote.
Mayor and Ward 1 council member Dave Bennett described the vote as “a game changer.”
“I’m humbled that the voters would trust us to spend this money in the city’s best interest,” said Bennett.
He said the election showed the advantages of the city’s small size which allowed council members to directly engage their neighbors in discussions about the needs of the city to continue economic growth and provide residents a good place to live.
Bennett gave an example of one 91-year-old man he met knocking doors who was still living in a house he bought south of Britton Road in 1951.
“Well, you have to have money to run a government, so I’m for it,” Ramsey quoted the man as saying.
Vice-mayor and Ward 5 council member Sonny Wilkinson described the vote as a “huge win” for the city.
“This is the biggest vote in the history of The Village,” said Wilkinson about the first vote for bonds in the history of the city.
“It will result in the largest infrastructure improvement plan in the history of the city.”
As a comparison, Wilkinson said The Village usually budgets about $200,000 for capital improvements each year, but the new dedicated half-cent sales tax will generate about $600,000 per year.
“It will be possible in the future for us to pay cash for a firetruck,” said Wilkinson. He pointed out that paying cash saves the city interest money that can be spent elsewhere.
Ward 4 council member Cathy Cummings said the vote was “a win for The Village” and was excited that voters wanted “to invest in the city.”
She said The Village had never seen an 80 percent vote for tax increases.
While there has never been a bond vote before, city voters had approved several temporary tax increases in the past.
“This is a great way to recruit business development in The Village,” Cummings said. “And there are lots of businesses that we know were watching and waiting to see how this vote went.”
“If we don’t invest, no one else will,” said Ward 3 council member Hutch Hibbard.
He described the vote as “huge.”
“We need to repave many of our streets that have been basically in the same condition since they were poured in the 1950s,” said the nine-year veteran of the council.
He also believes the vote will send a message to businesses thinking about moving to The Village.
But, it was also a good way for him to get to know his constituents better over the two days he knocked doors.
“The people spoke in this election,” Hibbard said.
Bruce Stone has been the city manager for The Village for over 32 years and has seen the city go through several economic struggles in the past.
But Tuesday night was different.
“It’s a good day for The Village,” Stone said with a smile.