By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Early voting on the Public Safety Sales Tax renewal and even-numbered city wards starts today.
The ballots include a proposition for extending the Public Safety Sales Tax on a permanent basis as well as candidates in city wards 2, 4 and 6. Ward 8 Council member Chad Williams did not draw an opponent and will retain his seat.
Ward 2 is an open seat with four candidates competing: Gary Caissie, Aleisha Karjala, Matthew Leal and Clint Williams.
In Ward 4, incumbent Greg Jungman is being challenged by Bill Hickman and Rhett Michael Jones. In Ward 6, incumbent Jim Griffith and challenger Jerry Lang will be on the ballot.
In-person absentee or early voting is available to all eligible voters from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Friday at the Cleveland County Election Board Office, 641 E. Robinson St.
Voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at local precincts throughout the city.
Some precincts will include the Canadian Valley Technology Center Special Election.
All voters should bring identification such as a voter ID card or a driver’s license. Due to a state law that took effect Nov. 1, early voting is no longer conducted on Monday. Absentee Voting Board personnel will be on duty today and Friday to assist early voters.
For more information on early voting, contact the Cleveland County Election Board at 366-0210.
Candidate forum today: It’s not too late to meet candidates in person and hear their views on the issues firsthand.
The Citizens for Financial Responsibility is conducting a candidate forum from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m today in city council chambers, 201 W. Gray St.
The question-and-answer procedure will be followed and the questions at this forum will focus on financial decisions, the city budget, the overall fiduciary landscape of Norman, and bonding and sales tax issues, with emphasis on the candidates’ personal solutions for Norman. Tim Lashar of Lashar Comfort Systems will be the moderator.
The audience will be given an opportunity to write questions of concern for the candidates.
Public Safety Sales Tax: The Public Safety Sales Tax, commonly known as the PSST, will be on the ballot as a proposition for renewal. The special tax is designated for public safety uses only and funds police and firefighter positions.
The tax also has paid for two new fire stations, stations No. 8 and 9, and has provided funding for key equipment to aid police and fire operations.
“We have a success story that the Public Safety Sales Tax has done everything promised and more in the city of Norman,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “PSST II will continue, with additional accountability, to do what we said we will do.”
The PSST is not a new sales tax and, if approved by voters, will continue at the same rate of one-half percent.
Originally approved as a temporary sales tax by voters in 2008, the tax supports 71 police and fire positions. If renewed, the tax will continue to support those positions, as well as 19 additional positions including 13 school resource police officers, four emergency dispatchers and two emergency vehicle mechanics.
Norman Public Schools will assist with the funding of the school resource officers.
The PSST will fund specific capital needs, including an emergency communications system, an emergency operations and dispatch facility, fire trucks and apparatus, and the relocation of Fire Station No. 5 to improve response times to that coverage area.
If approved, the special sales tax will become permanent.
Ballot language on the proposition may be a little confusing to some voters. Once the designated capital projects have been completed (in an estimated 12 years), 3/8 percent of the tax collected will go into the Public Safety line item account in the general fund to support those 91 fire and police positions permanently.
At that point, the remaining 1/8 percent of the special tax will be available for other public safety capital projects as the city council deems appropriate based on needs assessments by the police and fire departments and other criteria. That money will go into the capital fund and be tracked as a line item for public safety projects.
The PSST Oversight Committee will continue to monitor the special sales tax to see that the money is spent appropriately on legally allowed public safety uses.
To qualify for PSST funds, by ordinance a project must enhance public safety, emergency management or animal welfare, provide direct services to the citizens, ensure long-term financial stability of the city or provide for continuity of existing city services.
A portion of the PSST has been used to bolster the rainy day fund in proportion to the PSST collections.
Additionally, should an emergency put core city services at risk, PSST funds could be used for sustainability because those core services in crisis would constitute a public safety concern.
Click here to read campaign contribution reports for the candidates
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