NORMAN — Norman City Council members are talking about how to spend excess Public Safety Sales Tax funds.
Council members have debated use of the funds for two years and decided to wait until Fire Stations 8 and 9 were complete before allocating the excess money.
In addition, they have asked Finance Director Anthony Francisco to set aside a six-month buffer to protect staffing salaries in case voters don’t approve an extension when the sales tax expires in September 2015.
The coming budget for Fiscal Year 2014 will look more directly at use of excess PSST funds. At that time, fire stations 8 and 9 will be completed and 69 of 71 proposed positions to be paid out of PSST will be added.
Francisco said the council has around $5 million in excess funds to work with in the upcoming budget year.
The priority public safety need expressed by Police Chief Keith Humphrey is in-car video and body cameras for officers, at a cost of $750,000.
Currently, officers have audio recorders but do not have video recorders. Humphrey said those recorders provide evidence for cases and document police interactions with the public.
The fire department list is longer and includes brush pumpers, water tankers and fire engines.
“We didn’t look at this as a wish list of things we would like to have. This is all stuff that is used for fire suppression,” Fire Chief James Fullingim said.
Grass fires last summer took a particularly large toll on equipment, he said, and equipment is the largest factor in determining the ISO rating of a community. The national insurance rating impacts property insurance costs.
“We’re in class 3 in Norman,” Fullingim said. “The lower the number, the lower your insurance rates.”
The city council asked the two chiefs to create a prioritized list of needed equipment staged over the next two years.