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Stillwater's First News with Bill Van Ness


Richmond Elementary School first-grade teacher Ginger Billman has been named one of 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Billman was named Stillwater Public Schools Teacher of the Year in May, qualifying her to be considered for the state level honor.

All finalists were named teachers of the year for their districts and selected by a panel of educators, legislators, and community members after review of their application packets.

Billman has been an educator for 27 years. She has taught kindergarten, first and second grades and special education K-5 in Oklahoma City, Cushing and Stillwater. Billman is in her 17th year of educating Richmond students. She is also a Great Expectations Instructor and teaches professional development to educators across Oklahoma and other states during the summer.

The 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named in February. Beginning July 1, the honoree will begin Teacher of the Year duties, including public speaking engagements and serving as an ambassador for Oklahoma’s teachers and an advocate for the profession.




    As of this advisory, there are 116,736 confirmed total positive cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma.
    There are 15 additional deaths identified including a new death in Lincoln County. There are 1,249 total deaths in the state. There are 841 new recoveries for a total of 99,541.
    For more information, visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov.

PAYNE           2791          12              2571         208
CREEK          1562          37              1347         175
LINCOLN        781            21              640          136
LOGAN           843            2                689          152
NOBLE           175             3                158          14
PAWNEE         331            5                289          37

STILLWATER  2270          8               2138        124



Many of our community's small businesses are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, Stillwater City Council, working with the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, created Stillwater Small Business Assistance Program. This program, which council approved on Monday, Oct. 19, will assist businesses who need help reopening or have other financial needs. Applications are available now.

“We know our neighbors need help,” Mayor Will Joyce said, “so the City of Stillwater is committed to doing everything we can to support and preserve our local businesses,”

City council asked City Manager Norman McNickle and Chamber CEO Justin Minges to explore ways in which they could make a difference. The result is a new grant program that moved the funding that the City received from the CARES act reimbursement into a $500,000 grant pool. Grants will remain available until the funding is depleted.

McNickle said, “Helping local businesses stay in business is critical to everyone in our community.”

The guidelines and approval process for Stay Open Stillwater are outlined on the Chamber’s website at www.growstillwater.org/grants.

Program details are as follows:

    Grants up to $5,000 for qualifying small businesses
    Fewer than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees and annual income for 2019 less than $10 million
    The business must be located within the Stillwater corporate city limits
    The business must provide evidence of at least a 25% revenue shortfall between March through May 2020 compared to designated periods from 2019–2020

The Chamber will focus on business-to-business outreach to ensure businesses know about the availability of the grant opportunity; while the City Manager’s Office will review and approve the applications.

“If you have questions about the application process, let us know,” Minges said. “We are here to make sure businesses get the funding they need.”

Mayor Joyce is pleased to see the program move forward, “Not only are locally-owned stores job-creators, they build vibrant, strong communities and recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into our local economy.” He also stressed that another way to help Stillwater’s business community was to shop local, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

For the latest information on COVID-19, with details on all that the City of Stillwater is doing to keep its residents safe, visit  http://stillwater.org/page/breaking-news



The City of Stillwater’s October 2020 sales and use tax collection totaled $2,859,210. The collection is based off August transactions that were reported to the Oklahoma Tax Commission in September and apportioned to the City in October.

This is a decrease from October 2019 total collections by $157,377 (5.22 percent).

The City of Stillwater’s sales tax collections in October 2020 were $2,575,566, which is down $174,745 (6.35 percent) from October 2019.

The City of Stillwater’s use tax collections in October 2020 were $283,644, which is up $17,368 (6.52 percent) from October 2019.

Hotel/motel tax remitted to the City in October 2020 totaled $48,411, which is down from October 2019 collections by $26,320 (35.22 percent), which shows the effects of the current pandemic.

In Oklahoma, sales tax is the largest source of recurring revenue for municipalities, and the novel coronavirus has brought many challenges and unknowns related to the dependability of that revenue source. Changes in how businesses in the community operate and in the shopping habits of citizens as well as the canceling of community events all jeopardize the reliability of local sales tax revenue.

Although Stillwater has experienced only modest effects to sales tax since the start of the pandemic, the future health of sales tax revenue is dependent on the community’s ability to reopen businesses, reemploy our citizens and reengage public activity and events. Sales tax collections will be monitored very closely in the coming months, and amendments to the City’s budget will be made as needed.

For more information about the budget and taxes, visit the City’s Financial Center at http://stillwater.org/budget



Recently, the City of Stillwater surveyed local residents on shopping locally using FlashVote, an online surveying tool. City officials were seeking data that would give shop owners insight on current and future local shopping behaviors.

According to the survey, more than half of the respondents do almost all (more than 75 percent) of their shopping within Stillwater city limits. To see what else respondents had to say about shopping local, take a look at the full results here: https://www.flashvote.com/stillwater-ok/surveys/shopping-locally-09-20?via=email&vote=true&

For more information about how to interpret these results, check out our Zoom session with Kevin Lyons from FlashVote.

Don't miss the next FlashSurvey. Sign up here: https://www.flashvote.com/stillwaterok

Stillwater is the first city in Oklahoma to start using FlashVote, a scientific survey service provider. The surveys are five questions or less and take no more than one to two minutes to fill out. The surveys will cover a wide range of topics.

When residents sign up, they get to determine how they want to receive the surveys — whether by email, text or phone call. They will receive a notification whenever there is a new survey, and they will have 48 hours to participate before voting closes. Once the survey is closed, anyone who participated will receive the results and will see how his or her responses compare to the group.

FlashVote works to engage residents by making participation simple and anonymous. While personal information is not shared with the City, it does allow for localized reports.

Residents can sign up quickly via the web at https://www.flashvote.com/stillwaterok

To sign up by phone, call 775.235.2340 and mention you want to sign up for FlashVote in Stillwater. Residents who choose to participate can also opt out at any time. User information is not shared with other organizations.

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