Sometimes what you learn at a Luther Town Board meeting doesn’t even come from the board discussion or agenda. At Friday night’s meeting, someone in the audience said the empty former Walmart property is listed for sale. Anyone who drives by the empty brand-new building east of town on Hwy 66 might already know that, but it was news to most in the meeting. And certainly, we’ll learn more about all of that with some returned inquires. The property, as of Monday morning, was not listed on the broker’s website.
Just in case we need a refresher, Walmart came to Luther with much fanfare and left eight-months later. The Town sold Walmart the land (that had been used as a former sports field) for about $160,000, and the store built a store and retail gas facility valued at $1.3 million, according to the Oklahoma County Assessor. During Walmart’s short stint in Luther, the town banked on the sales taxes the grocery store, pharmacy and gas station would send, which was about $80,000 during the few months the store was open.
It took until the May 2016 meeting for town leaders to speak out loud about feeling the pain of the loss in sales tax revenue.The Town of Luther gets its revenue from sales taxes, fines from police citations and permits for buildings and construction. Mayor Lea Ann Jackson repeatedly noted at the May meeting that the town is consistently spending more money than it is taking in, and is using reserve money from the sale of the land to help pay the bills.
May 4, 2016, Luther Town Treasurer’s Report
- General Fund $113,797.27
(The General Fund was $146,418.70 as of July 1, 2015, according to the agenda documents).
- Rainy Day $170.61
- Police $180.13
- Fire $3,611.02 (note: includes grant money)
- Cemetery $1,679.44
Still the town spent some more money at the May meeting, including a 1.7% pay raise for the police chief and fire chief. After much discussion on the issue, in light of the town’s budget issues juxtaposed with Trustee Birlene Langley advocating for the raise saying that neither town employee have had a raise for several years, the trustees voted 3-2 for the increase. Ron Henry and Jackson voted NO, while Langley, Cecilia Taft and Carolyn Lawson voted for it.
Work is beginning on next year’s budget that begins July 1, 2016. Proposals are due from departments by May 23, 2016.
Shouldn’t C. Lawson have recused from voting for a raise for a family member due to conflict of interest?