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November 2, 1996

The Perry Improvement Program proposition on Tuesday's general election ballot may go down in the record books as one of the most spirited local campaigns in many years. It's good to have healthy discussion based on the issues if you can see through the smoke screens and flawed information that somehow seem to become part of the debate.

The mayor, city council and other proponents of the 2.75 sales tax increase have identified our most critical needs as an alternative water supply, an aggressive street repair program to eliminate potholes, and renovation of the city-owned Perry Memorial Hospital property to keep it in tune with the times. Operating a city takes money, and their solution to that is to bring our local sales tax level back into line with such neighboring cities as Ponca City, Stillwater and Enid.

The proposed 2.75 local increase would make our total bite amount to 8.5 cents on the dollar. Several surrounding cities are planning to raise theirs to 9 cents or higher because they are struggling with their own problems, and they all require financing. Cities have no magic source for funding. It has to come from the people they serve.

Perry Improvement Program supporters have tried very hard to place the facts before Perry voters and to make us aware of the critical needs facing this community. There is no cheap way to adequately resurface streets, provide an adequate, safe water supply and bring our hospital up to acceptable standards. It just takes money.

Some of the negative statements we've all heard have attempted to inject personalities into the discussion, but that should not enter into it at all. The people we have designated as our leaders in municipal affairs are trying to do their jobs by telling us what this city needs. Not frills, not luxuries. This is amount maintenance as much as anything. We are actually struggling just to provide ourselves with a basic water supply, decent streets and adequate medical care. Taking care of such primary needs is just common sense. If we continue to neglect them, it will amount to a major step backward. Addressing them through the Perry Improvement Program is a step forward.

The 2.75 sales tax increase would run for not longer than 15 years. Judging from past experience, all three proposals would be paid off in considerably less time than that. Our city leaders have proven they can act prudently in handling financial matters. The water treatment issue, the most recent example, was retired years ahead of time. Local officials have earned our trust in that regard.

Some who object to the proposal have threatened to drive to neighboring towns to do their shopping. As demonstrated above, all cities of any size in this area of Oklahoma have a local sales tax amounting to almost exactly the same size as proposed in Perry, or in some cases more. Add the considerable expense of driving out of town to the cost of shopping, and there is no saving to be realized by doing that. That would only provide revenue for those towns to improve at our expense. Sales tax dollars spent in Perry will help this town, not Stillwater, Ponca City, Enid or Oklahoma City.

We have been confronted with the facts in an intelligent, honest way. The choice is ours in Tuesday's general election. What direction will Perry take -- forward or backward? Will be proud or embarrassed by the choice we make? It's up to us now. Be sure to cast your vote. Yours is the one that counts.