The City of Edmond passed a resolution Monday night opposing a ballot initiative this fall that would raise Oklahoma’s sales tax by 1 percent to pay for education.
The tax hike would raise about $615 million per year for common and higher education in the state, but Edmond city leaders are worried it would hinder economic development. Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. where cities and towns rely on local sales taxes as their primary source of revenue.
“That’s how we pay police, fire, street maintenance,” said Todd Hildabrand, a staff assistant to both the city manager and the city council. “And our concern is it could be non-beneficial when it comes to capturing those sales taxes.”
Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb said in a statement he considers State Question 779 an attack on the limited resources available to cities. Todd Hildabrand says the council's concern is that a higher sales tax could scare away retailers.
"They may just look at it and go, 'No, it's not viable for them to come here',” Hildabrand said. “And if we live solely on sales tax, then if we can't get retailers and businesspeople coming here, it may affect our intake of sales tax."
The resolution specifies the City of Edmond is not against education. The council believes passing State Question 779 would also affect the state's poorest households.
Summer Mills has children in Edmond’s Centennial Elementary. She says she’s disappointed in the council’s decision, because a community is only as strong as its schools.
“My family moved here because of the great schools. We are at risk of losing that right now,” Mills said. “Every day we fail to act on a solution to the teacher shortage is a day I worry my children won't have a quality teacher guiding their learning.”
Edmond Public Schools superintendent Bret Towne says the district loses veteran teachers to other states because of low pay.