Wichita County to vote on County Assistance District Tax

WICHITA COUNTY, TX (KAUZ) - Wichita County citizens will soon have a chance to vote on a County Assistance District Tax.
But, if approved, most voters will not have to pay.
If passed, money that originally goes into a state fund will be distributed elsewhere.
It would be divided up evenly between volunteer fire departments, road and bridge projects, the Sheriff's Office radio project, and an emergency fund.
It is all in an effort to bring money back to the county.
It can be a struggle for volunteer fire department's to have the funds needed for the job.
    "Those are certainly issues that make it more difficult to ensure we have the right equipment to take care of those fires that go on out in rural areas," Rodney Ryalls, Fire Chief of the Burkburnett VFD, said.
That is why Chief Ryalls would like to see the tax passed.
But it's not really a tax.
    "We are collecting tax dollars and sending them to Austin," Lee Harvey, Wichita County Precinct 2 Commissioner, said. "And instead of Austin sending them back to us to pay our bills with, they are keeping it."
In the last two quarters of 2016 and first two of 2017, approximately $962,000 dollars went into the state fund.
If the County Assistance District Tax would have been in place, around $241,000 dollars would have been given to volunteer fire departments, the Sheriff's Office for their radio project, road and bridge repairs, and an emergency fund.
Woody Gossom, the Wichita County Judge, does not want people to get hung up on the word "tax".
    "Do I want to vote against it because it has the word tax in it?" Gossom asked. "And I'm still going to pay it, but it is going to go to Austin and be eventually filtered into the general fund of Texas."
Chief Ryalls also serves as the Chief of Rural Departments of Wichita County and said they would benefit greatly from the change.
    "Keeping that equipment running and operational might be that much more important for the smaller rural department that is really contingent on a lot of fund-raising in addition to the money they currently receive," Chief Ryalls said.
If voters pass it in May, it would raise the sales tax to 8.25% throughout Wichita County.
It is currently 8.25% inside city limits and 6.25% outside city limits.
However, Judge Gossom and Commissioner Harvey said most people already pay 8.25% outside of city limits.
This item will not be on the ballot of anyone who lives within city limits of Wichita falls, Iowa Park, Burkburnett or Electra.
It is just for people who live outside city limits.
However, Commissioner Harvey and Judge Gossom believe it will affect everyone if passed.
Wichita county rural fire departments will be out informing the public.
Judge Gossom also encourages anyone with questions to call.
If the tax is not passed, the money will continue to be put in the state fund.

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