The Norman Transcript

Local news

May 19, 2011

City council debates use of PSST funds

NORMAN — Sometime next year, city officials believe the Public Safety Sales Tax will have generated enough money to pay for the commitments made to voters in May 2008.

Dozens of firefighters and police officers have been hired.

Fire Station 8, on the city’s west side, officially opened Wednesday and No. 9 is in the design process.

The half-cent sales tax for public safety, approved by voters more than three years ago, generated $7.6 million in fiscal year 2010 and is expected to surpass that amount this year.

What will become of any surplus PSST funds in the future has long been a topic of debate among city officials and the Norman City Council.

City Manager Steve Lewis said during a Finance Committee meeting Wednesday that any surplus PSST funds should be used on large, one-time expenses, although specific projects weren’t broadly discussed.

Lewis said the surplus funds also would have to be used on items related to public safety, which keeps a promise to voters.

The council also discussed the future of the PSST, which expires after seven years.

Officials said the half-cent tax would likely have to be extended to keep many of the new officers and firefighters hired since 2008 on the job.

Because of the uncertainty involved with getting an extension, the Finance Committee discussed establishing a transitional fund, in case voters decided against the measure.

Councilman Doug Cubberley, chair of the Finance Committee, said it is very likely the matter will be sent to the voters before the tax actually expires.

“I always thought that, during year six, we’d go to the vote,” Cubberley said. “The (extra) six months would give you a second bite (if the proposal fails).”

Andrew Knittle 366-3540 aknittle@normantranscript.com

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