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November 25, 2013

Norman City Council members consider renewing half-cent Public Safety Sales Tax

NORMAN — City council members discussed renewing the half-cent Public Safety Sales Tax during a scheduled city council retreat Monday.

Nothing has been decided yet, but members discussed whether the renewal would include another temporary tax and how long that would be in effect, or a permanent tax.

Whatever is decided, it is evident money will be needed in future fiscal years to fulfill public safety needs in the community.

The current sales tax was set up to pay for the salary of 71 people, including 41 police officers and 30 firefighters. There are currently 69 on the payroll, and police officers will be added to that before the sales tax ends in September 2015.

If the sales tax isn’t renewed by September, or three months before that, it could affect 71 people, said Anthony Francisco, city finance director.

Temporary sales tax renewal: Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said she was in favor of renewing the half-cent sales tax for another seven-year period because it has already been proven to be successful. Rosenthal said the city has proven to voters the formula works, so why fix something that isn’t broken?

Rosenthal said she thinks they should put together a specific plan on what they would use the money for, so voters will know what their money would go toward if the renewal passed.

The plan would include continuing to pay for those 71 salaries, adding more police officers and firefighters and outlining what their specific duties would be, as well as outlining each of the departments’ specific capital needs.

City council members Lynne Miller and Stephen Holman agreed.

Permanent sales tax: Council member Robert Castleberry said he would prefer a permanent tax because they are putting permanent employees on a temporary tax.

Castleberry also suggested they should consider a permanent quarter-cent tax for those salaries and a temporary quarter-cent tax for capital needs so they aren’t leaving people out to dry.

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