The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 14, 2007

Cherokee’s voters to cast ballots on school, motel tax issues on Sept. 11

By Tippi Rasp Staff Writer

CHEROKEE — City and school officials are hoping residents show their patriotism on a historic American day by making their voices heard at the polls.

Voters on Sept. 11 will be asked whether or not they support a 5 percent motel tax to support economic development and tourism. School patrons will vote on a separate measure asking for $1.18 million for school improvements.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Cherokee Mayor RoseMary Whit-tet said she also hopes people are inspired to vote both out of patriotism and “devotion to their town.” She said holding the election in tandem with the school election increases voter turnout.

Cherokee city commissioners unanimously approved the resolution calling the election June 28.

Motel tax vote

Neither Whittet nor City Manager Brandon White had estimates on the dollar amount the tax could bring in through Cherokee’s only motel, the Cherokee Inn. Whittet said money would be spent on advertising and other promotions to spur economic development and tourism.

“We need to do whatever it takes to promote Cherokee,” Whittet said.

Karen Hawkins, owner of Cherokee Inn and former mayor of Cherokee, said city officials are singling out one business unfairly for a tax to benefit the entire city. Cherokee is a 20-minute drive from Alva, and Hawkins said vying for customers is hard enough without raising rates.

“I can barely compete with Alva (now),” she said.

She said she is all for promoting Cherokee and would be in favor of a 1 or 2 percent motel tax.

Wright said Whittet brought the proposed tax to the commission. Whittet said she was approached by supporters during her campaign for mayor about proposing the tax if elected. Whittet said she researched taxes implemented by area cities. Jet, for example, has one motel and has implemented a 3 percent motel tax. Waynoka collects a 5 percent motel tax. Alva, Fairview and Enid all collect motel taxes.

Voters who live inside the city limits will vote in both the city and school elections. Some voters may live inside the school district boundaries but outside the city limits. Those voters only will receive one ballot, Alfalfa County Election Board Secretary Joyce Thornburgh said.

The city election requires a simple majority — or 50 percent and one vote — to pass. School bond elections require a 60 percent majority.

School bond vote

The school bond election features three specific projects — $465,000 to replace roofs across the district as needed, $445,000 to buy and install a geothermal heating and ventilation system at the high school and $270,000 to construct a seven-lane, all-purpose track.

Precinct polling places open for the school election vote at Cherokee High School, the Farm Bureau building and Bethel Baptist Church. Precincts polling places closed for this election are Burlington City Hall, Carmen After 55 Club and the Helena senior citizens building. The school district can save money by closing precincts with few or no voters and allow absentee votes.