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Rogers County Voters To Decide On $28 Million Payout

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Downtown Claremore in Rogers County Downtown Claremore in Rogers County
Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm. Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm.
ROGERS COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Voters in Rogers County will decide Tuesday whether to raise their sales tax by a third of a penny.

It all stems from a lawsuit filed against the county 12 years ago.

A pasture just south of Oologah was once planned to be the site of a limestone mining operation.

Material Services had targeted the land in the late 1990s, but the Rogers County commissioners fought against it. They held a meeting to annex the land and prevent the company from moving in, but a clerical error led to a violation of the state's Open Meeting Act and Material Services sued the county.

If the county had realized its mistake back then, it could have re-filed for that meeting, making the annexation legal. That re-filing would have cost about $1,000, but now thanks to the lawsuit and $4,000-interest a day, the county owes close to $28 million.

The original plan to pay the settlement was to raise property taxes, but the current county commissioners, who were not serving when the lawsuit was originally filed in 2000, didn't like that idea.

"It's not fair to take it to the property tax people," said Mike Helm, Rogers County Commissioner.

Helm said he admits the county was dealt an unfair hand, but he said the money has to be paid, which is why he supports raising sales tax across the county by a third of a penny.

"It's not fair to go to that granny that's on a fixed income and tell her, 'Listen, you're going to have to pay $283 more in your assessed value next year," said Helm.

Owasso Resident, Andrew Dale, said that he would be okay with the increase.

"A third of a penny sales tax—I don't think would bother me," said Dale.

That sentiment was echoed by several people in downtown Claremore Monday, including some business owners who said the third-of-a-penny increase would not impact their business.

Helm said, either way, the county has to pay and a 15 year, third-of-a-penny increase is not too much to ask.

"Most people is just going to have to give up a frappuccino or a Starbucks coffee," said Helm.

If the sales tax vote does not pass, then property taxes will automatically be raised.

The first year's increase will be $241 per $100,000 of home value because of up-front interest that must be paid.

After that it will drop to $110 per $100,000 in home value.

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