The Norman Transcript


January 31, 2014

Booming economy helps county pay down jail debt

NORMAN — The county’s quarter-cent jail sales tax was approved by voters just as the nation was entering an economic downturn, the likes of which we had not seen since the 1930s.

At the time, the tax was expected to generate about $500,000 per month to build the new detention center on Franklin Road and U.S. Highway 77. At that rate, it would have taken 20 years to pay back the debt.

It turns out, the countywide levy is exceeding expectations and is generating up to $650,000 per month.

Officials credit retail expansion in Norman and Moore for the increased revenue. The boom has allowed county commissioners to pay down the debt on the facility and save millions of dollars in borrowing costs.

That’s fortunate because the county, relying on cost estimates that were made before the recession, borrowed more money than it needed for the facility.

If conditions continue, commissioners say they may be able to pay off the facility in about half the time. That means voters could see the tax go away in about half the time.

At the time of the vote, commissioners vowed to sunset the tax as soon as the final bonds are paid off. We’re glad to report that could come 10 years early.

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