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March 20, 2013

‘Temporary’ sales tax will have lots of takers

NORMAN — Local voters have shown a tendency to support public safety through the use of temporary sales taxes. Cleveland County voters approved a sales tax to fund the new jail and Norman voters approved a public safety sales tax for additional police, firefighters and two fire stations.

The jail tax is bringing in about $500,000 per month. There is no set end date, but county officials have pledged to end it as soon as the jail is paid off. Norman’s Public Safety Sales Tax began collections on Oct. 1, 2008, and will terminate on Sept. 30, 2015.

Now, more than two years out from its sunset, police and firefighters are looking for support to extend the tax. When it was passed, the idea was sales tax growth revenue would be enough to cover the added positions. That may not be the case, as Norman’s sales tax revenue has not met projections.

Candidates for Norman’s mayor and city council seats were asked about continuing the tax at a forum Monday night sponsored by Norman police and fire departments. All candidates expressed support for an extension, but some were concerned about the amount and whether the tax should be made permanent or temporary.

Other community “wish list” projects would like a shot at a temporary sales tax revenue stream. The community swimming pool, a new library, development of Ruby Grant Park and other wants will likely be top of mind as the “temporary” public safety tax nears termination.

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