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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