By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman voters will likely consider a 10-year extension of the half-percent Public Safety Sales Tax in the near future, city leaders said Tuesday.
The dedicated sales tax that supports 71 police and fire jobs and helped build two new state-of-the-art fire stations will expire soon, and residents must extend that tax or lose those jobs.
The Norman City Council is asking city staff to put together a ballot proposal for discussion at a public meeting. The meeting will preview the proposal and allow city leaders to answer questions and get input from residents before formalizing the proposal’s ballot language. The date for the public meeting has not been set at this time.
Based on Tuesday’s discussions, the council will propose renewing the current half-percent sales tax (one-half cent collected on each dollar spent) for an extended period of 10 years. The longer time frame will provide job stability for positions the tax supports, as well as provide an opportunity for capital purchases that might not be available in a shorter time frame.
If approved, the tax would fund 13 school resource officers in a cost share program with Norman public schools, four communications officers and two emergency vehicle technicians (mechanics).
The proposal would maintain the 71 positions created by the original tax but would not fund additional firefighters or other police officers at this time. When the city grows enough to need another fire station, more fire positions could be funded in a future renewal proposal.
The proposal also does not include any animal control officers or animal welfare employees, though if there is excess tax, it would be admissible to use that money to fund an animal welfare position if needed in the future.
Capital expenditures will be by priority, starting with a new radio system and a communications center or Emergency Operations Center. That center would be built on property currently owned by the city. Fire apparatus is the next capital priority, and if there is excess tax, the city will move fire station No. 5 to a position that will better serve the east side of Norman.
Additionally, the proposal will include a commitment to fund a portion of the city’s rainy day fund.
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