The Norman Transcript


November 26, 2013

Making the case for keeping sales tax

NORMAN — Norman voters approved a temporary, half-percent sales tax in 2008 with the intent of hiring 41 additional police officers and 30 firefighters. It also was to fund new fire stations in east and west Norman and needed firefighting equipment.

That tax will expire in September 2015 unless the city council authorizes a new election and voters say yes. The tax is different from the half-cent collected county-wide that will be collected until the debt is paid off on the F. DeWayne Beggs Detention Center.

The city’s sales tax issue will likely be debated at length by the council and members of the PSST citizen oversight committee. The argument will be made that the passage of the “temporary” tax increase in 2008 came with hopes that the city’s sales tax base would have grown enough by 2015 that the general revenue stream could support the new positions.

We’d like to see a breakdown of the city’s sales tax growth since 2008, noting the additional retail along University North Park and in other pockets of the city. The recession took some steam out of the 2008 forecast, but revenues appear to have rebounded some.

Most of the police and fire hires have been made. At least one council member has raised the issue of paying for permanent positions with temporary tax revenue.

Norman police and fire will make the case over the next few months that they need to continue the tax for salaries, equipment, a new radio system and relocation of Fire Station No. 5.

Voters have supported sales tax increases, utility hikes and bond issues when they know specificially how the additional money will be used. The recent passage of the sewer rate increase is a textbook example of presenting the information to voters and letting them decide.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal wants a plan put forth on how any increased funding would be spent. Couple that with a list of all that was done with the 2008 “temporary” tax, and you may be looking at a winning vote.

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