The Norman Transcript

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March 28, 2013

Chamber forum airs sales tax issue

NORMAN — The Norman Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum put strong emphasis on sales tax income for the city, though candidates were split on the issue and the majority said Norman does not have a long-term sales tax problem.

“I understand why the Chamber emphasizes it. I think sales tax is tremendously important,” Ward 5 candidate Lynne Miller said.

Miller said she appreciates the presentation Chamber Board President Trey Bates made at her Rotary club because Bates showed the consistent growth of Norman’s sales tax over the past 12 years.

“Our growth has been gradual, so we can handle it and we can add the services as we go,” Miller said.

“We can always have more sales tax revenue, but how are we going to do it?” Ward 1 candidate Greg Heiple said. “You have to have a vision ... The vision is what we need to lead forward. If we get the vision right, the tax revenue will come.”

Mayoral candidate Tom Sherman said he researched Oklahoma Tax Commission records and Norman doesn’t have the same “market share” it once had.

“We can’t continue that kind of decline in our market share,” Sherman said.

Echoing a message Council member Robert Castleberry delivered recently at a city finance meeting, Sherman said using the fund balance to have a balanced budget is not a good practice.

“If we do that much longer, we’re going to end up upside-down,” Sherman said.

“I’m reminded of the fact, and I’d like to remind Mr. Sherman, we’ve come through the worst economic downturn in most of our lives,” Rosenthal said. “During that downturn, did we borrow from our fund balance? Yes. At the same time that we were doing that, we started a rainy day fund.”

Rosenthal said the city also has started an “above-the-line emergency fund” to help when unexpected expenses come along like the tornadoes that went through the city last year on April 13. Despite the extensive damage to city property, Norman did not qualify for federal dollars.

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