Rural Bryan Co. residents protesting new school tax

By: Daniel Gotera Email
By: Daniel Gotera Email

BRYAN COUNTY, Okla. -- Durant Independent School District officials are anxiously awaiting an April 1 election to raise taxes to pay for a new high school, but several residents outside the city limits do not want that vote to take place, and are asking county officials to do something about it.

The idea of a new Durant High School sits well with most residents in the county. It's how officials plan on paying for it that's causing the problem.

When the Hollowells moved to rural Oklahoma back in 1993, worrying about sales tax increases within city limits was the last thing on their mind.

"We who live in rural Bryan County do not get to vote on that, but we have to pay it when we have to buy goods and services in the city of Durant," Hollowell says.

Since 2000, Jess Hollowell says the city of Durant’s sales tax figures have increased by 20 percent. Hollowell calls that ‘a big problem,’ because residents from around the county are going into the city to pay for goods at higher prices and do not reap any of the benefits.

Hollowell says if taxes go up again to pay for a new school, it just will make the situation worse for county residents.

"There are many schools in Bryan County and none of them get help from anybody else. The citizens of each community have to pay for their own schools," Hollowell says.

The Hollowells’ feelings are shared by others who live outside the incorporated area of the Durant. That’s why they want county commissioners to take action.

District Two commissioner Ivan Kelly says 60% of the county's population lives outside Durant.

"We’ve had several people contacting us requesting that we take a stand," Kelly says.

Over the past couple of weeks, Kelly says he has received several phone calls from constituents who feel another sales tax increase would be unfair, so much so that if the increase passes, most residents who buy products in Durant say they will look south of the Red River for their goods.

"Those people tell me that I’m not going to come to Durant if this sales tax passes I’m just going to go buy my goods from Texas where the tax is cheaper and there is no sales tax on groceries."

Kelly says commissioners can only verbally oppose the election, but residents say that is enough. Just so folks inside the city know how the rest of the county feels.

"We're not questioning that they need a school or not. It’s how they pay for it and they need to do it the same way that Colbert, Bennington, Rock Creek, all these others pay for their schools," Kelly says.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet Friday morning to discuss the issue at the courthouse. The vote will take place on April 1.


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  • by Durant District Resident Location: Durant on Mar 10, 2008 at 07:29 PM
    Durant schools gladly accepts hundreds of transfer student from Bryan county without charging them tuition as many schools across the nation do. I pay ad valorem taxes in Durant District in which a certain millage goes to Durant Schools unlike these transfer students families. I have never once heard a property owner in Durant District complain about this being unfair. Interesting how now that it's the county residents opportunity to help support these student they claim its unfair. I do not live in city limits therefore cannnot vote but would gladly vote yes if i could especially for these transfer students who cannot get any support from their local communities.
  • by Shawn Location: Durant on Mar 10, 2008 at 04:14 PM
    It really makes no sense for someone to say they will just go to Texas and buy goods instead of coming to Durant due to the tax hike to improve our school situation. I say go ahead. With gas as high as it is, spend the extra money and go to Texas. Lets see, which would be cheaper, a few cents more on the dollar or the gas over there and back? Be reasonable! I give to schools all over the county in the form of donations out of the business I manage in Durant all the time. Anytime kids look for donations around the county where do you think they go? To Durant! They know our businesses usually do whatever they can to help all schools.
  • by republican Location: durant on Mar 10, 2008 at 09:11 AM
    I've never seen so many card carying democrats (like Bryan County) who oppose a tax. For all of the "Middle Class" just wait until the Democrats win the White House. That is tax money our part of the world will never see. At least this is a tax that will go to improving our local community. That includes the rest of Bryan County. And those of you already going to Texas to shop, why don't you just go ahead and move there.... It will make it better for all of us.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2008 at 07:53 AM
    For some of us driving to Texas isnt about saving lots of money. It is about not giving our tax dollars to Durant.
  • by James Location: Calera on Mar 9, 2008 at 08:54 PM
    Most of the rural people drive to Texas to shop anyway. The stores are much cleaner, the prices are much lower, the sales they advertise are better, and most of all, the Texas merchants actually appreciate the business the rural Oklahomans bring to them. The Durant merchants have always looked down their noses at the rural people when they come to town to shop, and the few rural people that still shop in Durant should have to pay extra sales tax if they don't have any more sense than to shop there. Let the City of Durant raise their city sales tax to 20% if the want to. It won't cost me a dime.
  • by Bill Location: Southmayd on Mar 9, 2008 at 07:13 PM
    Ben;You already know that 650 kids are trucked into DHS,and you want to pay each town they came from out of this tax, and you know the top is 9 million dollars .Can you tell these people how much each entity would get.I personally would vote for any tax that would provide new Schools for the future.,and is Sherman their doing that right now,they are building two new Schools,and I guarantee you we will benefit.The town i'm from with a pop. of about 1200 passed a 42 million school bond a few years ago.Nice talking to ya.
  • by Concerned Resident Location: Bryan County on Mar 8, 2008 at 08:45 AM
    As a county resident that voted for one of our county commissioners it is deeply concerning to me that elected leaders such as the County Commissioners of Bryan County would take a proactive stance against progress in this community. Of the 38 thousand residences in Bryan County close to 75 percent are dependent upon Durant for employment. The Durant School District is a vital part of the community’s economics. Strong and progressive communities are dependent on vibrant and effective school districts. I am one of those residences that is dependent upon Durant for not only employment but many professional services such as banking, legal services, medical services and understand that it takes an infrastructure supported by tax dollars to provide these services to the entire county. How could they give into a few special interest individuals of the 38 thousand and sell out the 75 percent depending on the city.
  • by Grateful Citizen Location: Durant on Mar 8, 2008 at 08:42 AM
    Education is the absolute key to cultivating a workforce that is highly skilled and willing to give back to the educational system and community that created those opportunities. Thank you Durant Schools, Southeastern, and the city of Durant; but most of all thanks to the taxpayers of Durant willing to give to the community that created this environment for me and my family. I for one will vote yes so I can invest in all the children of this county and hopefully create more opportunities for them in the future.
  • by Grateful Graduate Location: Durant on Mar 8, 2008 at 08:09 AM
    Educaion is the absolute key to cultivating a workforce that is highly skilled and willing to give back to the educational system and community that created those opportunities. Thank you Durant Schools, Southeasteastern, and the city of Durant; but most of all thanks to the taxpayers of Durant willing to give to the community that created this environment for me and my family. I for one will vote yes so i can invest in all the children of this county and hopefully create more opportunities for them in the future.
  • by Information Location: Durant on Mar 8, 2008 at 06:17 AM
    To set the record straight concerning free land. The land adjacent to the sport complex is under lease to the city of Durant from a trust authority. It is uncertain this land could be legaly convayed to the school district and if so the ability to sale bonds to obtain revenue to build would be difficult at best and would most likely carry an outrageous interest rate do to the circumstances. Also, there are reasons the sport compex is on the south parcel of this land. There are several factors contructing on the remaing land that could increase the cost of construction approaching 5 million dollars. These factors include (rerouting the waste line supporting the complex, rerouting 2 ONG high pressure gas transfer lines, purchasing additional land, and extensive excavation cost do to a drastic drop in elevation to the north end which is close to a floodplain). This option has obviously been researched. The construction cost including the purchase of land on Gerlack is significantly less.
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