The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 19, 2014

Make the public safety sales tax permanent

NORMAN — Editor’s note: These three former council members were instrumental in initiating the Public Safety Sales Tax which voters approved in 2008.

Editor, The Transcript:

As the public debate begins over the extension of the current half-cent tax for public safety improvements, we enter what is actually the final phase of a plan that was hammered out while we were on the City Council five or six years ago. It came on the heels of the rejection of a proposal the public thought was too broadly stated, so we took great pains to address what had been identified by our citizens as very specific needs with a plan to meet those needs. It was not an easy process. We debated over mechanisms of financing, timing, and accountability. The effort required those of us at the center of the initiative to be willing to compromise and cooperate with each other in order to produce a tax proposal that everyone on Council could support.

We eventually proposed a tax that would provide for the implementation of a Community Oriented Policing philosophy, the construction of two new fire stations, and the funding of appropriate personnel and equipment. This was to be done by sales tax alone, and a temporary one at that. It was a big project and an ambitious proposal, but it came with a Manager’s Plan and a Citizen’s Oversight Committee. Lastly, it came with a strategy for extension.

We felt this was vital in view of the fact that we had taken the very unusual approach of proposing to fund permanent salaries with a temporary tax. The strategy for extension was that the Council ask for the vote in year six, early enough that if it failed, a second attempt could be made to extend it in a way the public could support before the expiration of the initial tax. Additionally, the city manager would be required to have reserved enough funding that employees’ jobs would not be at immediate risk in the event of a refusal to extend the tax. In short, we wanted the question of extension to revolve around the effectiveness of the tax, without manipulation or scare tactics regarding jobs. Thus, we support calling the election in the spring.

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