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January 7, 2014

Residents concerned about details of 10-year renewal of half-cent Public Safety Sales Tax

NORMAN — Between the cold weather and the BCS National Championship game, there wasn’t a large community presence at a public meeting Monday to discuss the renewal of the Public Safety Sales Tax, but strong opinions were shared, nevertheless.

City council members told Norman residents at the meeting that they are currently looking at 10-year renewal of the half-cent tax. Many members of the public who spoke not only questioned the temporary tax when there are permanent salaries depending on the money, but also why the tax is being put on a ballot so quickly.

“It is extremely poor public policy to fund permanent positions with temporary sales tax,” Norman resident Ted Metscher said. “What’s gonna happen if this thing doesn’t pass?”

Former city council member Roger Gallagher said he doesn’t know of any city that hires permanent employees with temporary funds.

“It’s only just and it’s proper to make it permanent,” Gallagher said.

The current seven-year PSST funds the salaries of 71 police officer and firefighters.

Metscher suggested that the temporary PSST be scrapped and a permanent general fund tax be brought forth to the citizens of Norman.

“You’ve already included everything but the kitchen sink with this tax,” he said. “We might as well call it a general tax.”

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said in 2006, a general tax was brought forth and voters rejected it.

Norman firefighter Matt Hart said it’s hard to advocate for a temporary tax when there are permanent employees tied to this tax.

“We’re not getting rich off this tax,” Hart said. “We’re able to get where we need to be (with this tax).”

There are supposed to be a certain number of firefighters and police officers per every thousand, and Hart said they are still behind that number now, even with the additional employees from the current PSST.

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