By Conrad Dudderar
Public input will be solicited through surveys and town hall meetings as the Yukon City Council considers calling an election to fund capital improvements for streets, buildings.
Possible projects that could be proposed through a general obligation bond issue are:
A new fire station in west Yukon, new public library, sports park complex, Main Street improvements, new community center, and Garth Brooks Boulevard/11th Street upgrades.
“We want citizen input,” Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar said. “That is what is going to drive these projects.”
The City of Yukon will survey residents and host town hall meetings to seek suggestions from residents.
“We want to hear what the public wants,” said Kretchmar in her “State of the City” address at the May 13th Yukon Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
A bond issue for specific capital projects, which must be approved by voters, would be paid by Yukon’s property owners.
General obligation bonds are funded through a property tax mill levy. Yukon voters last approved a bond issue in 2007.
City officials would like Yukon’s mill levy to be back up to 15; it’s just over 2 now.
A second option to fund specific projects is a dedicated sales tax, also requiring voter approval. Sales tax is paid by those shopping at businesses inside the city limits.
The City of Yukon’s local sales tax rate is 4%: General fund 2%, capital improvements 1%, public employees’ compensation/equipment .75%, and reserve fund .25%. Yukon’s overall 8.85% sales tax rate includes the state’s 4.5% tax and Canadian County’s .35% tax.
Municipalities like Yukon rely on revenue from sales tax and water sales to operate. In Oklahoma, most property tax revenues are collected by schools and counties.
Kretchmar shared estimates that a sales tax increase would generate about $30 million over five years while a general obligation bond would bring in $18 million over that timeframe.
A general obligation bond or sales tax increase is needed to improve Yukon’s aging infrastructure.
“Our infrastructure is so old, and we don’t have the money that we need to be able to do these projects,” Kretchmar told the audience. “I want the city to have amenities and have great quality of life for all of our citizens.”
Meanwhile, Yukon’s first-year city manager outlined five potential road projects that could be funded through a revenue note:
• 11th Street – between Main and Wilshire
• Garth Brooks Boulevard – Grid Smart to further improve traffic flow
• Wagner Road – from State Highway 4 to Yukon Parkway
• Yukon Parkway – from Main Street north
• 10th Street and Holly Intersection – New right-turn lanes
The City of Yukon now has $6.9 million reserve fund. City leaders use this “Rainy Day” fund for emergencies – and keep it at least 25% of last year’s city budget.
“We’re in a great position right now with our general fund reserves,” Kretchmar said, noting some Oklahoma cities are “lucky” to have 5% in reserves.
The City of Yukon’s general fund totals $27,589,154, with the largest portion of revenues from sales tax, along with water/sanitation fees and a hotel/motel tax.
Some 80% to 85% of expenses go for personnel, specifically wages, benefits and insurance.
“Our people are the best resources that we have,” Kretchmar said.
Kretchmar, who started working for the City of Yukon in 1996, has been city manager since January. She had been assistant city manager since 2010.
IT’S BEEN BUDGETED
About $900,000 in the City of Yukon’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget has been earmarked for these new capital projects:
New police vehicles, new library books, gateway signs at city limits (Garth Brooks Boulevard, Cornwell and Yukon Parkway), police officer body cameras, street striping, street repair, new animal control truck, upgrade city phone systems, and upgrade public WiFi.
Estimated sales tax revenue totals more than $7.6 million, but the city has about $5.9 million in debt service from previous capital projects and $800,000 will be for a Freedom Trail Playground/Splash Pad grant project.
“It leaves us under $1 million for other capital projects,” said Kretchmar, noting it costs about $1 million to build one mile of road.
The city council has only been able to budget $50,000 for street repairs in the FY22 budget which is “not enough,” she added.
In her presentation to Yukon Chamber members, Yukon’s city manager described several city streets in need of resurfacing.
Council members will consider bids for two projects at their May 18th meeting:
• 11th Street: From Main Street north to the railroad tracks and between Wagner Road and Wilshire. This is a key project because the road is a detour for multi-phase State Highway 4 improvements.
• Garth Brooks Boulevard: Grid Smart for traffic signals to further improve traffic flow between Vandament Avenue and N.W. 10th. New signal controls and I-40 right-turn lanes recently were installed. City officials also want to resurface the busy thoroughfare from N.W. 10th to Main Street.
Other improvements are needed along sections of Wilshire, Wagner, Holly, and S 5th.
Besides resurfacing roads, Kretchmar cited the need to improve city facilities. Of note is the Yukon Community Center, built in 1973.
“It’s in pretty bad shape,” she said, showing photos of the center’s worn flooring, walls and parking lot. “It needs to be bull-dozed and a new one needs to be built for multi-generations.”
Kimbell Bay pool has been closed for the summer because it is unsafe. A $50,000 repair is needed but no capital funds are available.
Read more about the “State of the City” address — including new development in Yukon — in an upcoming edition of The Yukon Progress.