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Oklahoma voters agree to raise taxes for school improvements

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SHAWNEE, Okla. - Pottawatomie County voters say yes to raising their taxes. It's a bold move that is expected to generate millions of dollars.

By nearly 63 percent, voters passed a half cent sales tax increase. The revenue will be divided among the school districts in the county.

The superintendents in Pottawatomie County have been working together on this for about a year. They took the unusual route of doing a county-wide vote instead of a district wide vote.

Some teachers in the county say they are grateful for the support.

“Our kids are important to us. In order for us to teach and graduate these excelled learners, we have to have the materials,” said Summer Yort.

Yort teaches second grade at Jefferson Elementary in Shawnee. She says as a teacher, she’s excited what a half cent sales tax increase will mean for her students.

“Just having supplies, the supplies for every student to have what they need for you to teach. It’s hard when you want to do a program like reading intervention and you want to make sure that that kid has the kit, that way they are not having to buddy up and share,” she said.

Jefferson Elementary is one of the oldest schools in the district. It’s a school the superintendent says is long overdue for building improvements.

“Roofs and hvac’s heating ventilation, air conditioning units are a huge component that we have had to delay and delay. We are in buildings that were built in the 20s, the 30s, 40s and some of them have had little to no attention,” said Mark Moore, Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent.

The half cent increase is set to bring in $3.7 million over the next 10 years. The money will be split between 14 schools based on enrollment.

Due to budget cuts over the last five years, schools have struggled with keeping up-to-date technology and acceptable transportation.

Moore says this vote is a step in the right direction.

“We are very appreciative of voters. It’s one thing to say you support schools but to open your wallet and vote and say yes to kids, that’s a big deal,” he said.

While a majority of the tax is for schools, the other portion of the tax, .005 cents, is earmarked for the One Safe Place Family Justice Center.

That portion is expected to bring in $165,000 to $175,000 per year.