The Norman Transcript

January 13, 2014

Mayor defends timing of public safety sales tax extension vote

Says voters promised they would bring it up in sixth year

By Andy Rieger
The Norman Transcript


By Andy Rieger

Transcript Executive Editor

      Upcoming votes on school bonds and public safety dominated Monday’s regular meeting of the Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

      Mayor Cindy Rosenthal addressed board members over public concerns that the proposed 10-year extension of the city’s half-cent, public safety sales tax extension was being “rushed” through. 

Council members hope to put the extension on the ballot for April 1 and will be addressing it over the next few weeks.

        “This is not something the City Council has developed since November,” Rosenthal said in response to aired concerns by Chamber Chairman Andy Sherrer.

         She said in the campaign to pass the seven-year tax in 2008, organizers promised to bring the issue back before voters in the sixth year so that if an extension failed, the city could come back to voters a second time.

“It was a promise that we made and a promise that I think needs to be kept,” she said. 

Sherrer and Chamber President John Woods have said the proposal for a 10-year extension needs more specific numbers and more public information before an April vote. Both said they supported the police and fire but wanted more time for discussion.

“April definitely seems like a rushed vote,” Sherrer said.

Shifting gears from municipal politics to the public school system, superintendent Dr. Joe Siano outlined the proposed bond issue coming before voters on Feb. 14.

Siano said a positive vote by district patrons would continue the “transformation” in both facilities and instruction that began with the five-year, $109 million bond issue in 2009. At the time, that was the largest bond issue in the district’s history.

He said bringing such a large proposal to voters every five years instead of proposing a smaller one each year expedites the district’s needs and provides better equity among newer and older schools. Under the annual plans, “many of our kids didn’t get to experience what their parents are voting on.”

The current proposal details $44 million in work at the district’s two high schools. The 2009 bond issue highlighted needs at elementary and middle schools.

After Dr. Joe Siano's comments, the chamber board of directors approved a statement of support for the bond issue.

  The bond issue will complete the job of having safe and secured entrances at all schools. There is $14.5 million in the bond issue for technology. Approximately $4.5 million is for technology infrastructure so all schools are equal. Additionally, $10 million will ensure that each student has the same opportunity to have one-on-one learning experience via technology.

In other action, chamber board members:

— Approved an $803,090 operating budget.

— Appointed a 2014 nominating committee of Mike Fowler, Kelley Grace, Andy Sherrer, Jim Adair, Dr. Nicole Jarvis, Andrew Seamens, Jim Wade and Robyn Castleberry.

— Approved a 2014 Legislative Agenda