Comanche Co. tax vote set for March 2


LAWTON – A vote on a proposal to extend Comanche County’s three-eighths of a cent sales tax for 10 years will be held in less than two weeks, on March 2.

The existing tax was approved in an election held June 24, 2014, and expires Dec. 31, 2021, the resolution relates. The commissioners assert in the resolution that “it is essential that the term of the sales tax levy should be extended” to Dec. 31, 2031.

The sales tax produced $5,057,486 for Comanche County over the past 12 months, Oklahoma Tax Commission records reflect.

Central District County Commissioner Johnny Owens said the county sales tax “is a must” because it benefits every resident of Comanche County.

The primary recipient of the proceeds from the county sales tax is the Comanche County Detention Center, Owens noted. “If we didn’t have that jail, we’d have to send all of our detainees somewhere else.”

Already Comanche County is sending its overflow inmates to a neighboring county. Because of a severe coronavirus outbreak last year, compounded by a long-standing record of inmate crowding, the state Health Department imposed a 95% cap on admissions to the CCDC.

Consequently, although the detention center has a design capacity of a maximum 283 inmates, the CCDC is limited to no more than 269 detainees “and we’re trying to hold that down to even less than the 95%,” Owens said Tuesday. The remaining space is reserved for isolating inmates who contract COVID-19 or any other contagious ailment in the future.

Since May 19, 2020, additional Comanche County detainees have been lodged in the Tillman County Law Enforcement Center at Frederick at a cost of $45 each day per inmate.

"I don’t want any more overcrowding in our detention center, because we can get in deep trouble that could cost us big fines from the state,” Owens said Tuesday.

Revenue from Comanche County’s three-eighths of a cent sales tax is divided among six recipients:

• 80% of the proceeds is earmarked for operation of the Comanche County Detention Center.

CCDC expenses totaled $3.83 million in Fiscal Year 2018-19 (pre-coronavirus). Those bills included facilities maintenance, inmate expenses (bedding, hygiene items and uniforms), workers’ compensation and liability insurance, meals, medical expenses, salaries and wages, staff expenses (drug testing, training, staff uniforms, travel, and staff supplies), and utilities.

Of the remaining 20% of the sales tax revenue:

• 8% is allocated for capital improvements and operational costs of volunteer fire departments in Comanche County, to help finance rural fire protection.

• 27% is for capital improvements and operational costs of the Comanche County Fairgrounds.

• 15% is to help pay operational expenses of the county Sheriff’s Department.

• 17% is deposited in the county’s Capital Improvement Contingency Fund.

• 15% is devoted to “industrial and economic development efforts” of the Comanche County Industrial Development Authority.