Pawhuska voters approve sales tax increase

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska voters last week approved a 1-cent increase in the municipal sales tax for 20 years to provide financial support for the city hospital. The vote was 253-to-119.

Representatives of the 25-bed, critical-access Pawhuska Hospital approached the City Council in October 2020 about placing a 1-cent sales tax increase on the ballot for a public vote. Hospital officials said there was no immediate danger of the hospital closing, but added that the nonprofit institution needed additional support to help ensure its long-term financial health. It has been estimated the penny of sales tax will provide in excess of $400,000 annually for the hospital.

In votes cast prior to the Jan.12 election date, 36 favored the tax proposition and 17 opposed it. The Presbyterian Disciples Church and Calvary Baptist Church were the two election day precincts. Returns from the Presbyterian Disciples Church reached the Osage County Election Board first, and the working totals changed to 199 votes for the proposition and 81 against (163-to-64 at Presbyterian Disciples). Totals from Calvary Baptist were 54 votes for the proposition and 38 against.

The final total, 253-to-119, translates as 68 percent in favor and 32 percent opposed.

“I am so thrilled. I’m very excited, very happy,” Beth Reed, chair of the hospital board, said in reaction to the election result.

Reed said she thinks the financial support provided as a result of the tax increase will make a significant contribution to the long-term survival of the hospital. She credited hospital staff members, board members and the management company with having worked hard. Reed also said her observation was that news coverage of the tax referendum helped to spur community discussion.